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A look at bicycling in New York

On November 23, the NYC Department of Transportation announced that the City is seeking a vendor to provide a bike share system. The system, which could resemble those already in place in Paris, Montreal, Barcelona, and Washington, D.C., could be fully operational in time for the spring of 2012 with a potential pilot next summer. 

There are a number of factors that could affect the success of such a system -- the number and location of the stations, the number of bicycles available, the cost to users, the ongoing upkeep of the bicycles, etc. In 2009, the NYC Department of City Planning released its Bike-Share Opportunities in New York City report to address many of these questions. Their report relied on Census data, surveys, and on-street and on-path counts and observations to better understand the potential for bike share demand.

It has often occurred to us that we collect an enormous amount of data about New York bike trips -- where they start and end, when they take place, and their distance. Since April 11, 2009 (when our most robust data collection began), users have planned more than 609,000 bike routes in New York City using Ride the City. (Since we began in the spring of 2008, users have planned 752,000 bike routes in New York.)

To help the bike share RFP responders write their proposals -- and to help NYC DOT and NYC DCP evaluate their responses -- we have crunched some numbers that we think could be useful. We present two of those analyses below: 1) a map showing the relative share of bike trip origins and destinations aggregated by Census block; and 2) a column chart showing the distribution of bike trip distances returned by Ride the City. 

For several additional analyses (and a bigger map), please take a look at our new stats page.

In order to preserve our users' anonymity, we grouped the origin and destination of all routes generated since April 2009 by Census block. For each Census block, there may be one of three shades of blue shown, ranging from dark blue (a block where a very large share of cyclists chose as a start or end point) to light blue (a block that a moderate share of cyclists chose as a start or end point). Census blocks without any shading appear gray. Those Census blocks mark the origin or destination of only a handful of routes, if any.

As we note on the stats page, route groupings are distorted to some degree by some large Census blocks like Central Park, Prospect Park, Roosevelt Island, and much of the waterfront perimeter of the city. We're working on a version of this analysis that is adjusted by Census block area to better assess route origin and destination density.

Bike routes generated in New York since April 11, 2009, by origin/destination Census block


You can pan the map by dragging it around, double-clicking to zoom, etc.

How far do New Yorkers ride?

The median length of routes generated by Ride the City in New York was a little over 4 miles. About 57 percent of all routes generated were less than 5 miles. On average, routes generated by Ride the City might be somewhat longer than all bike trips since cyclists probably don't need route planning assistance for short trips around their neighborhood.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to check out the stats page!