In late June, 2020, The Eastern Queens Greenway conducted a survey to explore people’s experiences cycling in New York City during the Covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of the survey was to learn if and how people’s cycling habits had changed, and how cycling could be improved in New York City more generally. The survey received 178 responses. Highlights of the survey results include:
- A significant increase in cycling in NYC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Significant number of people planning on switching to bicycle commuting as schools and business reopen.
- Large numbers of bicyclists reporting dangerous conditions and negative experiences with drivers.
- Better cycling infrastructure and traffic enforcement key to improving safety for cyclists.
Details of the survey results are as follows:
- The largest percentage of respondents lives in Queens, followed by Brooklyn and Manhattan.
- Most of the respondents are regular cyclists, with over 50% cycling daily, and another 42% cycling at least weekly.
- Over half (52.8%) the respondents reported cycling more during the pandemic, with just 23% cycling less.
- 75.8% of respondents reported being unemployed or working/studying from home during the pandemic.
- 46.3% plan to resume commuting to work or school as they had done before when face-to-face work and school resumes. 37.5% planned on using a different mode.
- Of those who plan on using a different mode than previously, 61.7% plan to ride a bicycle to work or school.
- 82% said the most important factor in improving cycling in New York City is to improve cycling infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes.
- The survey asked respondents to “Please describe your cycling experience in New York City and how it might be improved.” 152 of the respondents answered this question. This is a summary of their responses:
Several of the respondents indicated that cycling had gotten better in New York City over the years due to improvements in infrastructure. One described how “Infrastructure has improved in some areas tremendously. I recently rode from my house to a doctor’s appointment in the Village and was impressed with the infrastructure from the Bridge to Washington Square.” Another remarked “Love the bike lanes!”
However, many more called for greater improvements. 91 respondents expressed the idea that New York City needs more and better cycling infrastructure, especially protected bike lanes. One noted that they “Started biking on a daily basis following phase 2 of lock down. Enjoyable to see so many cyclists around me. Some real improvements are needed – 2nd avenue gap, Queensborough bridge… for the areas where I bike most.” Several respondents specifically called for more bicycle lanes in the outer Boroughs where residents had little access to quality infrastructure, with one remarking that “I am concerned that the Bronx’s cycling infrastructure is nonexistent or has been neglected.” Another said we need “more bike lanes in Eastern Queens, especially north to south.” The same respondent who admired the bicycle lanes in Manhattan also said “My area of Queens and Brooklyn could use a lot of work.”
The desire for better infrastructure is not surprising, given that so many respondents (28) describe a feeling of danger when cycling in New York City. 7 reported collisions with a motor vehicle at one time or another. One reported that “cycling in NY is a serious activity which requires full attention at every second.” Another described cycling in New York as “Scary, I feel like I will die most times I ride my bicycle. Awful road quality. Disrespect of other users of the road by drivers.”
As the above comment suggests, many respondents (24) identified aggressive and unlawful behavior by drivers as a source of fear. One noted that the “worst parts of my experience are overly aggressive drivers” and another said that “Although I take side streets in Eastern Queens as a rule, drivers are still often impatient and unpredictable, and can speed up behind you and pass too close.” Another reported being physically threatened by drivers more than once, and another said that “Cars terrorize cyclists constantly and drivers verbally threaten with death.”
To curb the dangers posed by aggressive drivers, many respondents (22) called for better traffic enforcement. One respondent suggested “more speed cameras, so that cars are afraid to zoom by you.” One said it would be nice if drivers were “cited for hand held phoning, parking in bike lanes, making illegal turns, needless horn honking, etc.” and another called for the NYPD to deploy more bicycle police to enforce traffic laws.
A particular area of concern regarding lack of traffic enforcement is blocked bicycle lanes, with 19 respondents describing this as a common experience in New York City. One respondent said “Cars, police, and trucks parked in my bike lane and police do nothing!. Not one ticket issued YET. When are they going to pay for parking in our bike lanes??” Another reported that “Delivery drivers park in the bike lane on busy streets where it’s dangerous for bikers to swerve into traffic – that’s my biggest gripe.”