Monday, November 22, 2010

New York - better cycling than London?

What can New York, a city in perhaps the most car-dependent nation on earth, teach the UK about cycling?

Quite a lot, as it happens. In the last three years, New York City has built 200 miles of bike lanes. Cycling has nearly doubled since 2005. 1,800 miles of bike lanes are planned by 2030. Compare that with London's Cycle Superhighways, which total a shade over 100 miles.

There seem to be a lot of the same problems we have in London - bike lanes in the 'door zone', drivers who park in or misuse the lanes, conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, as well as pavement cycling and red-light jumping.

The difference though is New York has a serious program of building new bike lanes, backed by central funding. In some cases traffic lanes have been removed, and in one case a golf course has been reconfigured to allow a bike path to be built. Contrast this with TfL's stubborn refusal to balance the need for safe cycle facilities against motor 'traffic flow', despite the increasing numbers of cyclists.

In the UK, we're happy to spend billions widening the M25, but cycling funding is being cut even though it provides far more economic benefits than road building.

New York is not Amsterdam, or anywhere near. It's not even the best cycling city in the USA. It's a damning indictment that London suffers by comparison.


  1. I find it quite odd how often New York is held up as an example to copy.

    Yes it's a good thing that they're starting to build some infrastructure. However, it's a city where just 0.6% of commutes are by bike - a rate which is actually a lot lower than London.

    BTW, the population of the urban area of New York is double that of London, so perhaps 200 miles vs. 100 miles isn't really a difference at all...

    I think it's more a case of hype than anything else.

    The British press seems particularly taken in by this hype. For example, The Guardian has written about cycling in New York vastly more than in Amsterdam or other Dutch cities.

  2. My sister started cycling in New York the last year and I thought she was insane. I remembered the New York of 1996. What makes the New York example so compelling is knowing that the US is steeped in car culture. I wish the politicians in the UK would have an epiphany. We are getting left behind.