New Yorkers Bike On Water

Citi Bikers' unexpectedly frequent bridge crossings hold lessons for all bike-share services
Staff Writer

Despite what the rest of the world thinks they might think, New Yorkers don’t walk on water — but they do bike over it. Every 75 seconds, on average.

Ben Wellington, an assistant professor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY who teaches statistics to aspiring urban planners -- yes, the same Ben Wellington who used open-source data to pinpoint New York City's highest grossing fire hydrant -- has turned his attention to the benighted souls who use peddle power to shift those heavy blue public-share bikes the mile or so it take to get up and over the East River that keeps Manhattan at bay from Brooklyn and Queens, and vice versa. (We can attest, though, that the views from 100' above the water mid-bridge make the effort worthwhile.)

Wellington crunched the numbers for the city’s bike-share riders who traversed the three bridges that connect districts where the Citi Bike service operates. He found that between July 2013 and May 2014, Citi Bikers were taking about 1,100 such transpontine interborough trips a day on average — which works out to a trip every one minute, 15 seconds; more frequently in summer, less often in winter, for the obvious reasons.

Those trips accounted for one in 20 of all Citi Bike trips. (Citi Bikers recently racked up 20 million miles since the service started in late May, 2013, Citi Bike says.) Wellington also shows that 69% of the trips that start in Brooklyn stay in Brooklyn, compared to 97% for Manhattan-originated trips, further ammunition for those who complain that Citi Bike is still too Manhattan, and particularly MidTown and Downtown Manhattan-centric.

What makes Wellington’s numbers more than a New York City curiosity is that the trips peak heavily during the morning and evening rush hours, suggesting that the bikes are being used for commuting more than recreation, but that the busiest days in the period he looked at were the thee weekend half-days in August on which the municipal authorities closed many streets to traffic under its Summer Streets program.

“That shows,” Wellington writes in his blog I Quant NY,  “that if you put the cars away for a bit, the bikers come out.”

Related: Investment Group Said Close To Acquiring Big-City Bike-Share Programs

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