New York City has observed an increase in bicycle use as a means of transportation since the beginning of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
Most New Yorkers have not used public transport such as buses or subways anymore since the virus outbreak to avoid spreading. There is behavioural change focused on new means of transport, either to go to work, but also to perform essential tasks (shopping, ...).
As the New York City Department of Transport itself tweeted on March 11:"Since the beginning of March we have noticed an increase in cycling, based on recommendations from @NYCMayor and @nycHealthy regarding COVID-19. This week we have seen an increase of over 50% in cycling on all bridges in the East River (vs. 2019) “.
According to data from the NYCDOT, Citi Bike, the famous bike-sharing network, recorded 802,299 rides from March 1 to March 17 in 2020, compared to 649,451 in 2019 and 508,411 in 2018 for the same March data.
The daily increase in bicycle users is forcing the city to adopt new policies and urgent measures to respond to new consumer behavior by improving residents' access to cycling infrastructure and the protection that this entails.
Jon Orcutt, Communications Director of Bike New York, believes the city should implement a "system of pop-up bike lanes or even streets to prioritize cycling and expand the bike network" to meet and encourage the demand.
“With the motto of a safer city, the Council installs temporary protected bike lanes along 2nd Avenue from 42nd to 34th Street in Manhattan, and on Smith Street in Brooklyn, from Atlantic Avenue to Fulton Street, connecting to existing lanes on Jay Street. These temporarily protected cycle lanes occupy two key sections in two of the busiest cycle lanes in the city ”.
As Governor Andrew Cuomo argued. "Less traffic in the the New York City landscape because non-essential workers are not going to work. Open streets to reduce density. Do you want to go for a walk? God bless you. Do you want to go for a run? God bless you. But let's open up streets, let's open up spaces, people should be there, in open spaces, not in closed oness ”.
De Blasio restates that the NYPD would strengthen the enforcement of social distance in parks and around the city.
Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit advocacy group, and Bike New Yorkreleased a statement urging a radical approach to transforming streets and improving access for bicycles and pedestrians, while increasing opportunities for social distance.
Proposals of opening certain streets "exclusively for pedestrians, cyclists, emergency and essential vehicles", including areas around hospitals, the New York City marathon route, streets normally closed to Summer Streets, city fair routes, and city streets with large block associations.
In any of these circumstances, New York City has a long history of closing streets, noting that this increases viability (in the midst of the battle against Covid-19), giving the bike the space it deserves.
Advocates recommend and claim other streets, which in their opinion make sense to be close to cars, including Shore Boulevard in Astoria Park, Crotona Avenue and Claremont Avenue in Crotona Park, Jackie Robinson Parkway, and East Fordham Road between the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.
What do you think about the efforts of New York City promoting bicycle use in times of Covid-19?
“Certain streets of the five districts offer a large amount of space that can be cycled and where social distance can be assured for people, ”the statement said. If the city needs more support to make these proposals real, Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York, and our partners will be ready to recruit volunteers to help build and maintain these pedestrianized passageways. The New York City cyclists gathered after Superstorm Sandy, and we know they will remain worthy of the ocasion “.
Blasio also announced that Citi Bike would offer a one-month free license to "essential" employees, a category that includes many city workers, as well as health care workers and others. Citi Bike is said to offer more than 13,000 bikes at 850 stations in four districts, according to its website (there are no Citi bikes in Staten Island and the service has limited reach in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn).
The Citi Bike website currently has coronavirus reminders: "Be careful, wash your hands before and after riding, and travel for essential purposes only." The company has also said it “increases cleaning protocols”.
New York City was in the process of implementing several bicycle-friendly plans even before the virus crisis, including parts of a Road Safety Action Plan Mayor's Bigger Zero Vision and Plan Green Wave to increase cycling opportunities and safety.
Cyclist safety remains a major concern for defenders and officials, especially as new cyclists emerge.
As part of the current public health crisis and government orders urging people to stay at home, car traffic in the city has decreased significantly, making the streets increasingly manageable, but Orcutt explains this as a kind of trap. "Two things are happening: the streets have a lot less traffic than usual, which is great, but people are also driving faster ".
Likewise, the mayor and the NYPD commissioner have said they will tackle the apparent problem of faster speeds on more open roads, and the DOT has posted some tweets to raise awareness about safety in the city.
We love Cycling-Friendly Mobility cities like New York that use bicycles as the best medicine against Covid-19!
Source: Katie Kirker, Gotham Gazette