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

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"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. 

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