‘In New York, bike share is our only mass transit network that does not receive public financial support. This limits where the system can expand, on what timeline, and how it is priced.‘
Amid challenges and changes to New York City’s landscape since COVID-19, one constant remains: New Yorkers are flocking to bicycles. From health care workers headed to hospitals to delivery workers keeping the city fed, New Yorkers are leaning on two-wheeled transportation. Even our city’s new mayor is a regular bike commuter. Now is the time to double-down on investing in transportation resiliency and New York City’s bike infrastructure.
Key to fueling our bike boom is expanding Citi Bike, whose ridership now exceeds pre-pandemic levels—even during the winter and as tourism has not fully bounced back. While subway and bus ridership has been slow to recover, still hovering around half of pre-COVID levels on weekdays and slightly higher on weekends, bike share is the only transportation system that has seen higher usage since the pandemic began. If Citi Bike were its own transit agency, its ridership levels would make it the 25th most-ridden transit service in the country last year, larger than BART in the San Francisco Bay Area and almost as well-used as the PATH train.
As New York City recovers, we must capture the momentum of our bike boom and provide affordable, safe, equitable, and sustainable options for New Yorkers. We must also ensure that communities left out of the bike boom finally have access. For example, the Soundview neighborhood in District 18 has no bike share program, even though there is a real need. Expanding access to bike share is extremely important for family-dense, intergenerational communities like District 18. Increasing access to bikes does not take away from other forms of transportation, it adds options for community members to get where they want, when they want, in a healthy and sustainable way. To accomplish these goals, the city should provide public funding to bike share, just as it does with all other public transportation services.
A Siena College poll published last year found that New York City voters support using public dollars to support bike share. Almost two-thirds of voters want some level of public funding to ensure Citi Bike can serve more New Yorkers. Support is higher among young people and Latino New Yorkers, at 83 percent and 79 percent respectively. In the Bronx, 61 percent of voters believe that bike share is important in their neighborhood, even though Citi Bike does not yet serve our entire borough or any part of District 18. New York City voters have made it clear that they are ready to embrace a healthy, sustainable, and equitable transportation future.
Washington, D.C, Boston, and Philadelphia, among other cities, provide public funding for their bike share systems. Just across the river, Jersey City and Hoboken are supporting Citi Bike’s expansion with public dollars. In New York, bike share is our only mass transit network that does not receive public financial support. This limits where the system can expand, on what timeline, and how it is priced. We appreciate that NYC’s Department of Transportation is leading our largest bike share expansion ever, but there is still much more of The Bronx to cover, not to mention dozens of other neighborhoods that have no Citi Bike at all. During the 2021 campaign, Mayor Eric Adams pledged to support funding for Citi Bike to make sure neighborhoods that were left out are finally brought into the bike boom. We hope this becomes a priority for his administration during these first 100 days.
The path is clear: We need to build equitable streets, and provide sustainable, reliable, and affordable transportation access for all New Yorkers. We need our leaders to provide financial support to expand bike share to more neighborhoods. We also need our leaders to build the connected and protected bike infrastructure required for the ongoing boom in bike ridership and to keep our bikers safe. We need our leaders to expand this infrastructure in a way that engages and supports communities across The Bronx and the city as a whole.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it obvious that bikes are not only a means for recreation but a critical piece of transportation infrastructure and a tool to address climate change, economic inequality, and racial injustice. In giving all New Yorkers more ways to get around—including through expanded access to bike share—our leaders can signal that transportation is no longer a barrier to success, but a pathway to it.
Amanda Farias is a member of the NYC Council representing district 18 in The Bronx. Danny Harris is the executive director of Transportation Alternatives.