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More Protected Bike Lanes Could Mean More Kids Cycle

HOST: Nearly 8 hundred thousand New Yorkers a year bike regularly, and research shows that biking once a day instead of taking a car could reduce a person’s carbon footprint by almost 70%. More bikes sound like a simple fix to our carbon emission problem. But, how do you encourage more cyclists to get started, especially children, when safety is often a huge concern? Rebekah Robinson reports

REBEKAH ROBINSON, BYLINE: It’s a Saturday morning and Krystyna Michael and her 5-year-old son Andrzej are just leaving the Brooklyn Public Library. Andrzej he’s wheeling around his orange and gray bicycle.

ANDRZEJ: I like going back down hills – swoosh!

KRYSTYNA MICHAEL: You like biking in the bike lane, right?

The family loves biking safely. But In 2020, the NYPD and Department of Transportation reported over 5000 crashes that injured cyclists across the city. 24 of them ended in fatalities. And while New York has nearly 1400 miles of bike lanes fewer than half are protected by a physical barrier. Michael says while she allows her son to ride his bike she would feel even better with one big change

KRYSTYNA MICHAEL: More protected bike lanes for sure.

ROBINSON: That’s what the community an hour and a half’s bike ride north of here in Washington Heights is looking for The Department of Transportation has recently proposed a project there that would shorten pedestrian crossings near schools, reduce speed limits, and of course, add a protected bike lane. These protected bike lanes have demonstrated a reduction in crashes with injuries by almost 20%. Melinda Hanson is a consultant who works on reducing the number of cars on the road. She says protected bike lanes are important because they can attract women and children. The kind of riders/cyclists that urban planners look to as an indicator of good bike infrastructure.

MELINDA HANSEN: So if you see women, you see children, and you see that elderly actually using your bike lane, that often means it's a good bike lane. And right now in New York, we don't see that super often. So I think it's a good sign that we certainly have some improvements to make.

ROBINSON: According to a 2019 report from the Department of Transportation: women made up only a quarter of all Citi Bike riders. Hansen says the infrastructure in New York right now is good… for the US, but pretty bad compared to many of the best European cities because the infrastructure here just isn’t as consistent.

HANSEN: It's extremely rare for somebody to be able to, you know, leave their home or leave their work and complete a full trip on connected and protected bicycle infrastructure.

ROBINSON: Because without them, obstacles in lanes become increasingly dangerous.

HANSEN: If you have to swerve into traffic, instead of riding in a bike lane, then that's obviously going to decrease your interest of using this as a transport mode, it feels unsafe.

ROBINSON: Adam Gottesdiner Another cycling expert knows all about swerving –

ADAM GOTTESDINER: My commute is it involves a lot of you know, swerving, you know, looking around me and in general, a lot of like street savviness I guess you would say,

ROBINSON: But Gottesdinerr’s commute is to high school at Brooklyn Tech - he’s 17. And like many teens in his generation, he’s concerned about where the planet is heading and believes that cycling is more sustainable. That’s why he co-founded The Tube NYC. A team of high schoolers who advocate for increased bike safety and infrastructure that would allow NYC cyclists and kids, like him, to get around the city safely and quickly.

GOTTESDINER: I mean, if we want to have a culture where our kids are cycling in the street, we need to have safe streets, because in its current state, many of you know New York City's Bike lanes are very insufficient for that.

ROBINSON: Up north Construction on the Washington Heights school-protected bike lanes is set to begin later this spring.

Rebekah Robinson, Columbia Radio News


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