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Bike Traffic Continues to Grow Over East River Bridges

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It’s no secret that the bicycling boom accelerated in New York during the panemic. A city report released last week provides more evidence of what most New Yorkers already knew.

On Thursday, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman came to the Lower East Side (alongside the Manhattan Bridge bike path) to release findings of Cycling in the City, a report comparing bicycling usage in the second half of last year (2020) with the same period in 2019.

Since 2014, there have been automated counters on either side of the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. The survey relied on automated data from these locations, as well as the Queensborough Bridge, Pulaski Bridge, Kent Avenue and Prospect Park West.

Image from DOT report.

There was a 33% increase in bike traffic at the crossings listed above from May to December of 2020 compared with May to December of 2019. From 2015 to 2020, total daily trips over the East River bridges increased significantly. They were up 22% over the Williamsburg Bridge, 30% over the Brooklyn Bridge, 12% over the Manhattan Bridge and 35% over the Queensborough Bridge.

The bike path on the Williamsburg Bridge has seen the heaviest traffic over the past few years, and that trend continued in 2020. In the summer and fall of last year, the daily count averaged from a low of 8.279 daily trips to a high of 9.452 trips.

City officials see the uptick in cycling as a big success. Commissioner Gutman said, “Our fellow New Yorkers are seeing the light and embracing transportation on two wheels – helping us fight congestion and climate change at the same time… This report lays out the facts. Cycling is here, and it is here to stay. Data like this provides the foundation of our work to ensure cycling continues to boom and remains a safe, healthy and enjoyable way to get around New York City.”

At the same time, there are serious safety concerns, as Gothamist pointed out. In 2021 so far there have been 13 cyclists killed, compared with 24 in all of 2020. The Workers Justice Project reports that about 10 delivery workers on regular bikes as well as e-bikes and scooters have been killed this year.

To address bicyclist safety, the city installs around 30 miles of new protected bike lanes each year. During the pandemic, there was a big increase in the use of e-bikes, motorized scooters and mopeds. Growing numbers of moped riders are illegally using the bike lanes on the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges. The NYPD has made enforcement on the bridges a very low priority.

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