When the bicycle boomed in New York City in the last few years of the 19th century, it boomed big. New York's Western Boulevard, slanting outward from Columbus Circle to Riverside Drive, transformed from a once-quiet residential street to a thoroughfare for thousands of bicycles, especially on weekends.
City cyclists used the road for sedate weekend rides, as a way to enjoy a little nature in the city, and to show off their bicycle outfits. With the advent of the automobile around the century's turn, bicycling continued, but the car edged its way in, and then smothered the bicycle movement.
Yet now the bike it enjoying a new boom in the New York City Metro area, according to a study from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Obviously, cyclists already knew their numbers in the city were increasing, and local organizations like Transportation Alternatives have encouraged riders.
What the NJ DOT study shows, however, is that during the peak usage time - Saturday afternoon - bicycles make up just over 47 percent of the traffic on U.S. Route 9W, just outside the city.
Over a three day period, NJ DOT found 35 percent of all vehicles traveling the stretch of Route 9W north of Orbach Way were bicycles.
“There are times when Route 9W draws virtually the same number of bikes as motor vehicles,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “It’s imperative that public officials meet this demand with appropriate infrastructure for safe bicycling.”
NJ DOT's study is the one of the first to try to quantify NY's bike boom and the high volume of bike traffic on the highway.
While the bike renaissance is great news (and May is National Bike Month!), local cyclists say wider shoulders on Route 9, increased traffic enforcement, and opening the George Washington Bridge 24-hours would improve New York cyclists' lot.