As the subway system becomes less reliable and car traffic throughout the city becomes even more unbearable, New Yorkers are pining for a viable transportation alternative. But thousands of Gothamites have already found such an alternative in the form of bicycles, and city officials expect that many more will hop on the trend in coming years.
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On Monday, the Department of Transportation released a report detailing how bicycle ridership has grown over the past two decades and what the city is going to do in order to keep cyclists safe as more New Yorkers ditch their MetroCards and join the two-wheeled ranks. The report found that New Yorkers took an estimated 164 million cycling trips in 2015, up from 66 million in 2006. While ridership has grown, the number of fatalities and severe injuries among cyclists also dropped from an average of 544 per year between 1996 and 2000 down to 392 per year between 2011 and 2015.
Those numbers have been hailed as a major success by Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose Vision Zero initiative aims to drastically curb the number of vehicle-related fatalities on New York's streets. Now, with the number of regular cyclists in New York expected to double by 2020, his office is teaming up with the Department of Transportation, the Police Department and the Department of Health to quickly expand bike lines throughout the city.
The city will continue with its current plan of adding 50 additional miles of bicycle lanes each year, but on Monday the caveat was added that 10 of those miles will be made up of protected lanes. On top of that, the initiative will deploy additional law enforcement to intersections with high rates of cyclist injuries in an effort to curb dangerous practices by drivers and cyclists alike. The Health Department is also launching educational programs that will promote safe cycling and mindful driving in the city.
The report identified 10 "Priority Bicycle Districts," which are essentially neighborhoods with relatively high rates of cyclist injuries and a lack of infrastructure to protect them. Those areas, all in Brooklyn and Queens, will be prioritized for bike lane expansions.
Riding a bike in New York is a pretty terrifying experience for many city dwellers, but as the city's infrastructure becomes more friendly for cyclists and the subway continues to be a literal garbage fire, one can expect cycling to catch on in a big way.