Skip to main content
Problem Statement

The US Department of Transportation (1994 and 2004) has set a goal of increasing the percentage of trips by bicycle while improving safety. The rationale for promoting cycling is that it would shift some trips from the car, thus reducing roadway congestion, parking problems, air pollution, noise, and energy use. Moreover, both the US Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control advocate active transport such as bicycling for physical activity that would help combat the worsening obesity epidemic.

Many states and cities across the USA have adopted similar goals and have begun ambitious programs to improve cycling infrastructure. New York City (2007a, 2007b) has recently adopted a Bike Master Plan that would vastly expand cycling facilities and bike parking while implementing cycling training, traffic safety, and promotional programs. New York has already added 245 miles of bike paths and lanes in the past ten years and plans an additional 563 miles of bike paths and lanes in the coming ten years. From 2001 to 2007, New York installed over 3,000 new bike racks. Official city plans call for a network of 1,800 miles of bike lanes and greenway paths by 2030.

Cycling in New York has increased considerably in recent years. Annual cordon counts conducted by the City of New York (2007b) at a wide range of locations indicate that cycling levels increased by 75% between 2000 and 2007. Nevertheless, cycling accounted for only 0.5% of work trips in 2006, compared to much higher bike mode shares for many other large cities: 3.5% in Portland, 2.4% in Minneapolis, 1.9% in San Francisco, 1.7% in Washington, DC, and 0.7% in Chicago (Thunderhead Alliance, 2007). Thus, New York appears to be on the right path but has a long way to go, and could benefit from the experiences of more successful cities.

Over the past ten years, the principal and co-principal investigators of the proposed research project have already conducted and published extensive studies of cycling in Europe and Canada (Pucher, 1997; Pucher and Dijkstra, 2000; Pucher and Dijkstra 2003; Pucher and Buehler, 2005, 2006, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2008a, 2008b). We employed 1 .11=EL I munlammlib?m multivariate analysis of large datasets as well as in-depth case studies of cycling in 16 specific cities. The Dutch, Danish, and German cities we studied have bike shares of travel over ten times as high as those in most American cities. Even the Canadian cities we studied have about twice as much cycling as American cities. On the basis of our past experience examining cycling in the most successful European and Canadian cities, we propose now to study cycling trends and policies in New York and five American cities that have been among the most successful large American cities at promoting cycling.