City: Brooklyn leads the cycling boom

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The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

New Yorkers are biking to work in record numbers — and Brooklynites are leading the boom, new city statistics reveal.

More than 2,000 new commuters joined the biking brigade this year, bringing the number of Brooklyn-to-Manhattan riders to a record high of 18,809 cyclists per day, according to the just-released results of the city’s annual bike commuting census conducted every spring.

The Williamsburg Bridge remained the city’s busiest cross-river route, with an average of 4,450 people using the span, about 500 more than last year. But the Manhattan Bridge is catching up, with an average of 3,790 riders — an increase of nearly 1,000 riders since last year.

In all, Brooklyn bikers make up 57 percent of the cyclists who use the bridges.

Mayor Bloomberg said that the cycling boom is evidence that his administration’s controversial expansion of bike lanes is working.

“It’s the city’s responsibility to adjust to trends in commuting and ensure our streets are safe for everyone on the road,” said Bloomberg. “By improving our street network and strengthening enforcement of traffic laws, we’ve made our streets safer than ever — for everyone.”

Bloomberg has the public on his side, too.

Support for new bike lanes is growing — 60 percent of Brooklynites say bike lanes are a greener and healthier way to travel while only 34 percent say they are bad for traffic, according to a Qunnipiac poll released this week.

That mirrors a survey released earlier this year by Councilmen Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) and Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) where 70 percent of Park Slope residents favor the Prospect Park West bike lane — reportedly Brooklyn’s most controversial bike path.

Transportation advocates say that the public has always favored bike lanes and that the lanes are common sense.

“Anyone can see that bike lanes are good for all New Yorkers,” said Transportation Alternatives’ Paul Steely White. “Separate spaces for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers keep everyone out of each other’s way and out of harm’s way.”

Brooklynites are split over whether bike lanes are widely used — 37 percent say they are while 40 percent say that are not used that much.

But perception of cyclist commuting may not equal reality.

Commuting may be growing, but transportation experts say most bridges are far under capacity and could handle significantly more riders.

“The Manhattan Bridge could handle 20 times the volume of bikes that are there now,” said Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s Milton Puryear.