Bikes Gain Popularity as People Ditch Subways and Buses

Bike counts and bike share rides are increasing in two of the country's largest cities as commuters look for transportation modes that allow for physical distancing.

Read Time: 2 minutes

March 18, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

People on Bikes and Pedestrians

travelwild / Shutterstock

"A growing wave of New Yorkers are embracing cycling to get to work and around the city as their regular subway and bus commutes have suddenly become fraught with potential perils, from possibly virus-tainted surfaces to strangers sneezing and coughing on fellow passengers," reports Winnie Hu.

The evidence of the surging popularity of bikes as a preferred mode of transportation during a pandemic is more than anecdotal. "Citi Bike, the city’s bike share program, has seen demand surge 67 percent this month: Between March 1 and March 11, there were a total of 517,768 trips compared with 310,132 trips during the same period the year before," reports Hu.

"Cycling has also soared over four East River bridges that connect Manhattan with Brooklyn and Queens, and are popular bike commuting routes. There were as many as 21,300 bike crossings on a single day this month (March 9), up 52 percent from a peak of 14,032 bike crossings for the same period a year ago."

New York City isn't alone. Biking has also surged in Chicago, according to Hu. "Chicago also had a big jump in bike ridership, with its bikeshare program more than doubling to 82,112 trips from March 1 to March 11, from 40,078 trips for the same period last year."

Still, some cities have yet to display similar mobility patterns. In Seattle, for instance, counts along three popular rides have declined. And in San Francisco, the use of bike share has declined.

Returning to New York City, the surge in bike ridership has led to calls for increased bike infrastructure to ensure the safety of the new masses of riders on the streets. According to an article by Gertz Kuntzman, the city has yet to make any choices that reapportion city streets for the benefit of people on bikes during the pandemic. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020 in The New York Times

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

View of Tacoma, Washington with Mount Rainier in background

Tacoma Developing New Housing Policy

The city’s Home in Tacoma plan is designed to address the region’s growth and rising housing prices, but faces local backlash over density and affordability concerns.

1 hour ago - The Urbanist

Green alley under construction

A New Paradigm for Stormwater Management

Rather than shuttling stormwater away from the city and into the ocean as quickly as possible, Los Angeles is now—slowly—moving toward a ‘city-as-sponge’ approach that would capture and reclaim more water to recharge crucial reservoirs.

2 hours ago - Curbed

Aerial view of residential neighborhood in La Habra, California at sunset

Orange County Project Could Go Forward Under ‘Builder’s Remedy’

The nation’s largest home builder could receive approval for a 530-unit development under an obscure state law as the city of La Habra’s zoning laws hang in limbo after the state rejected its proposed housing plan.

3 hours ago - Orange County Register