Less than a year ago, the shrill cycling commentariat was very busy prophesying the all-but-certain slaughter of innocents once Citi Bike rolled into town. And make no mistake, the system has had 99 problems, but watching a team of sanitation workers bury piles of Citi Biking tourists in a mass grave near Tompkins Square Park ain't one.
Hunter College has released another in a series of pleasingly-worded cycling studies, this one examining how cyclist behavior has changed over the past 4.5 years—which happens to be the last time they released a study examining cyclist behavior. And you know what? Behavior has, across the board, improved.
Part of the opposition to pro-cycling initiatives is rooted in a perception that some cyclists have a holier-than-thou attitude toward other road users, show contempt for the rules of the road, and pose a danger to drivers, pedestrians, and themselves. According to this view, a number of cyclists run red lights, traverse the wrong way down streets, ride on sidewalks, are distracted because of the use of electronic devices and, with regard to their own personal safety, don’t bother wearing helmets.
The study took into account 43,0000 cyclists riding through lower and central Manhattan—a larger swath than the earlier report, its authors admit. Still, the results are notable. For starters, numbers provided by the DOT show that the number of cyclists entering and leaving Manhattan swelled from 28,300 to 32,200 between 2009 to 2012. In 2009, 91 percent of riders were men. The disparity is still gaping, but it does seem to be closing: While men compose 78 percent of cyclists, the proportion of female riders has since doubled—thanks, in part, to Citi Bike.
Onto cyclist behavior. On the whole, we've got some work to do: A third of cyclists don't stop or even pause at red lights—though women are less bad at stopping at red lights.
There are also fewer cases of riding against traffic—7.4 of cyclists were observed doing it now, versus 13.2 percent four years ago. Use of helmets is up by 20 percent, though bike share riders are less inclined to wear them.
The study attributes the behavioral improvement to a few factors: Expansive outreach attempts, and, happily (to most of us), there are simply more cyclists on the road.
"Cyclists are no longer an anomaly," the report says. "They are increasingly becoming a fixture of urban life. As the number of cyclists grows, both motorists and cyclists are becoming more mindful of the presence of the other and the need to adjust their behavior accordingly."
It concludes also that Citi Bike has been successful for three reasons: The prevalence of Citi Bikes on the road (safety in numbers), the heft of the bikes, and the relatively short distance users tend to travel. Citi Bike riders also tend to be more cautious than the banshees you see tearing through intersections on road bikes. (Full disclosure: I have dabbled in this behavior myself, and I'm sorry, OK.)
The report concludes with this relaxing Final Thought: "The expansion of the bike lane network, the growing awareness that there are multiple users of the city's streets, each with legitimate rights, and the greater adherence to traffic laws by cyclists, though, increases the likelihood that safe cycling in New York City will become an enduring phenomenon."
Except for you guys still yowling about the Prospect Park West bike lane: Keep on hatin' on, and please don't ever re-appropriate your efforts to a battle you might actually win. (h/t Atlantic Cities)