Hello 2012.  We’re glad you’re here. Not that we’re dissing the bygone year. 2011 gave people who love riding bicycles in New York City lots to celebrate — more miles of bike lanes, greater numbers of riders and safer streets overall. Still, we’re happy to put some of the less salutary moments — ticketing blitzes, Prospect Park West bike lane battles, the “bikelash” and skirt scandals — behind us.

Here are some reasons to be optimistic, bullish even, about bicycling in NYC in the coming year:

  • Bike Share Rolls In — The much-anticipated debut this summer of a bike share system will give New Yorkers a new entry point to an accessible, economical and easy-to-use (did we mention fun?) public transportation alternative. What is slated to be the largest bike share program in the U.S. will be stocked with a game-changing 10,000 bikes at 600 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Will they become the next icons of NYC, like yellow taxis, as suggested at a September press conference to announce that Alta Bike Share will be the vendor? We hope so. P.S. There will be be lots of pre-launch opportunities  to get to know how bike share works and to take a trial ride. Here’s how to keep tabs on the schedule of events.
  • Bike Lane Network Growth — NYC’s system of bike lanes will continue to grow, helping provide safer and more efficient routes among the five boroughs and through neighborhoods. At year end, the NYC Department of Transportation reported that 200 bike-lane miles had been added between 2007 and 2009, as commuter cycling grew by 45 percent. The city says it remains on track to meet its goal of 1,800 bike-lane miles by 2030, as outlined in the Bike Master Plan and the Bloomberg Administration’s PlaNYC for a greener New York. And public support remains strong. Recent polls indicate that a majority of New Yorkers favor the bike lanes.
  • Visionary Leadership  — The number of bicycle commuters has doubled since 2007 according to the NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator released last month. Is it a coincidence that this steep growth trend coincides with the four years during which Janette Sadik-Khan has been in the DOT commissioner’s seat? Hardly. It’s an indicator of strong, visionary leadership focused on creating safer, more livable streets for the benefit of all New Yorkers. In citing the city’s coming bike share program as one that will transform urban centers in 2012, salon.com noted, “Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is already a heroine to New York’s cycling community — this should qualify her for sainthood.” Amen.
  • Shrinking Gender Gap — Although a recent New York Times article pointed to a continuing gender gap in the bike lanes, with men outnumbering women three to one (this is, by the way, a national issue), there may be hope for gains on the horizon. The NYC DOT has reported that the male-female divide narrowed by 19 percent between 2001 and 2008. Will continued gains in infrastructure and overall street safety, combined with thousands more bikes on the streets, make a difference in female bike ridership in 2012? Ladies, grab your helmets.
  • New Ways to Engage — With the boom in New York City cycling, building new ways for people to connect, become informed and engage online around  bicycling interests, advocacy or shared routes becomes increasingly relevant. Recent examples of innovative ideas include: CrashStat, an online tool that enables users to view data about pedestrian and bicyclist crashes in their neighborhoods in an effort to promote safer streets; online crowd-sourcing of suggested locations for NYC Bike Share docking stations; and the new Bike Train evening meet-up for commuters along the west side of Manhattan.

What are the must-dos on your 2012 cycling agenda?

top photo: patch available from Best Made Co.

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