NYC Bike Counts Jump 35 Percent

screenline.jpgThe rumors were spot on. Yesterday DOT announced a 35 percent increase in commuter cycling. This year, an average of more than 12,500 cyclists were counted crossing DOT's screenline -- a set of checkpoints leading into the Manhattan CBD -- up from about 9,300 in 2007. It's the biggest jump in raw numbers since the count began and the largest percent increase since 2003, when the count went up 36 percent. Overall, cycling in the city has doubled in the past six years. (See the stat breakdown in this PDF -- the full version of the bar graph at right is on page 5.)

Advocates cheered the news. "More bike lanes and safer designs like Ninth Avenue are really starting to pay off," says TA's Wiley Norvell. "These numbers really show the huge latent potential for biking in NYC. We can't wait for 2009."

DOT paired its announcement with a safety message for cyclists and, yes, drivers:

"This unprecedented increase shows we are well on the way toward our goal of doubling the number of bike commuters," said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "As these numbers rise, cyclists should take all safety precautions, while drivers must be vigilant when sharing our streets with this growing population."

Meanwhile, fueling what could become a heated intercity rivalry, bike counts just came out of Portland touting a 28 percent increase in cycling this year, bringing bike commute mode share up to eight percent.

More background from DOT on its screenline count, after the jump.

DOT first conducted screenline counts of cyclists in 1980 and has been doing so annually since 1984.  Counts were historically taken once a year, during the middle of the week for a 12-hour period from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In 2007, DOT expanded the time window to 18 hours and added two additional counting dates. The 18-hour count showed that over a quarter of cyclists counted use City streets earlier in the morning and later in the day than previously believed. While commuter cycling has doubled over the past six years, DOT has found that some facilities have gotten much more popular.  The cyclist volume on the Williamsburg Bridge has quadrupled from 2000-2008 to 4,000 cyclists on a typical day.

DOT's NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator makes use of the most robust data available to estimate the trends in commuter cycling.  While not every commuter cyclist in New York is counted in the screenline, the count locations are high usage areas where trends are easily spotted. The screenline count looks at cyclists crossing the four East River bridges, those entering and exiting the Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall terminal, as well as cyclists crossing 50th Street on each avenue and the Hudson River Greenway.

This growth in cycling follows two years of DOT efforts to rapidly expand and improve New York's bicycle network. DOT added 140 miles of new bicycle routes to the on-street bicycle network in 2007 and 2008.

Graphic: NYCDOT [PDF]