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NYC Rush Hour Bike Commute!

It's fall and getting cooler in New York City, but that hasn't slowed down the people jumping on bikes. During rush hour it's starting to become a bit crowded, and that's a good thing. If you haven't been to NYC recently, you'll be amazed how much the protected bike lanes and Citi Bike are encouraging more people to ride.

During a recent rush hour ride home through the heart of Manhattan, I couldn't believe it. On Second Avenue, unbroken streams of cyclists ride in clumps -- at one point I counted 20 people riding single-file! So I decided to log some footage during two successive p.m. rush hours on some of NYC's most bike-busy commute paths, including the Manhattan Bridge, Second Avenue, and the West Side Greenway.

A few things I learned from the footage I shot:

  • More cyclists are riding the right way on the protected bike lanes and greenways. Sure, some people salmon, but it seems far less prevalent than a few years ago. Perhaps that's because the numbers are getting so big that self-preservation has taken hold? Whatever the factors, it feels more civilized.
  • Bikes are everywhere and drivers are noticing. Even on popular bike commute segments without bike lanes, drivers seem a little more aware, since cyclists are omnipresent.
  • Citi Bike has undoubtedly boosted cycling numbers and the visibility of bicycles on the streets. The bikes are blue, their front lights flash, and lots of "everyday" folks use them. They're impossible to miss.

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Komanoff

    Utterly fabulous footage. But Clarence, next time please lose the ridiculous font on your location labels.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Trying something fun and different. Not really a serious expose, just footage thrown together in a few hours. At one point wasn't even going to put it on the blog, but apparently people are Tweeting this one like mad already.

  • NBBL Member

    Nice try. Clearly you've upped your budget and are now working with Lucasfilm to create these realistic looking special effects.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    It's a derivation of the "Rollerball" (1975) movie font. I fell in love with it. Don't worry I will be going back to my standard "Eurostyle" for the rest of my films this year. :)

  • Chris

    The Pulaski is out of control lately.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.
  • Clarke

    I'm sure it wouldn't be fun to make, but a rainy rush hour version of this would be great for the "the bike lanes are empty" set.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Way cool Clarence! I too noticed that there were hardly any salmon in your video. Let me coin a new term: "Order in Numbers."

    Glad you went with your gut and posted this! Very informative regarding the above point to me. :)

  • Andy B from Jersey

    PS - Don't let Charles put you off. I love the font! At least for a little fun video. Also glad to see you producing a regular stream of videos again! Woo Hoo!

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    There are plenty of other places in NYC with streams of cyclists, but if you want to see it in its glory: 2nd Avenue. 2nd Avenue. 2nd Avenue. From 430 to 630 pm you'd swear you were in Amsterdam. Runner Up: The Manhattan side entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. Just cyclsits riding everywhere.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Charles doesn't put me off. I always like that he is very upfront with everyone. And if his biggest complaint is a font, then I am very happy with hearing it! :)

  • http://brooklynspoke.wordpress.com Doug G.

    Prince Street in the morning is just wave after wave after wave of cyclists, with people cutting West after coming up from the Manhattan Bridge and turning off of the Bowery. It's amazing these days. I'd say 10 bikes for every 1 car.

  • YetAnotherRIer

    Now, if only we would stop running those red lights!

  • Joe R.

    Regarding the weather, it's been unseasonably warm and dry for most of October so far. That's certainly helped keep the numbers up. That said, the last few years it seems the biggest growth has been during the winter months. Good to see that many people don't consider cycling just a fair weather activity.

    And keep the font. It's certainly something different but I say this in a good way.

  • Daphna

    I've seen an increased volume on cyclists on 9th Avenue. I ride Columbus down from 110th where the protected bike lane begins. Then lower on that avenue in the 40's there are often 4-5 bikes at each light cycle waiting to cross even during late off-peak hours.

  • Komanoff

    Thanks Clarence. Hey Andy B, my font problem is that I had to "tease out" the names of a few locations. If *I* couldn't grasp them easily, then some others who aren't familiar with the names of those avenues and bridges will have an even harder time. And I want *them* -- not just we cognoscenti -- to see the video, to marvel at the number of cyclists, and to know where we are.

  • Larry Littlefield

    There has definitely been a huge increase in the numbers this year, probably thanks to Citibike. I reminds me of the big increase I saw five years ago, before I started getting around by bicycle.

    Every bike lane with people using it, particularly "people like you," and every Citibike rack, is outdoor advertising. "Yes, people do this, and yes, you can do this," it says more powerfully than any ad campaign.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I am keeping the font, but just for this video. :) If it was a more serious endeavor (like the Groningen or Indy videos this year) I'd never dream of it.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    That's totally true and it is something I preach to my fellow videomakers, don't confuse the viewer. I actually pondered it quite a bit before just saying "what the heck, it's colorful and fun". If a more serious video and not just a montage of bikes I wouldn't dream of it.
    The one thing when I come to these internal discussions of arty fonts or graphics in my head is - if people are that curious to know the name of the street, they can pause the video if they don't get it the first time. Or just rewatch it. But Charlie is right.

  • Kevin Love

    Love the video!

    Compared to the way things used to be, now is better.

    But Clarence, your video of Groningen, as well as the numerous videos of David Hembrow and Mark Wagenbuur, have all got me seeing that we can be so, so much better yet.

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Kevin, We should! And we are moving towards better. And now we must make our new Mayor to go to the next level. Hopefully Mr. De Blasio (or, ahem, Lhota) can be encouraged to do it!

    I do remember days in the early-90s when I would ride over the Brooklyn Bridge and not see another cyclist (or pedestrian!) the entire way. If you went during rush hour, the number might be a dozen walkers/bikers the entire span. Now days you could go over at 2 am and see that many. Three years ago I biked over the Brooklyn Bridge around 2 am on a Friday night and counted 37 people! Progress!

  • iSkyscraper

    I love fall -- the tourists and warm-weather-only crowd are gone and the Citibike racks acutally tend to have a bike or two in them at rush hour. For the first time since June you can actually start to almost depend on Citibike again as part of your commute.

  • http://onedaybeard.com/ Dmitri F.

    This font is way too hard to read, glad it's a one time thing ;-)

  • http://onedaybeard.com/ Dmitri F.

    Wonderful, awe inspiring film! Thank you!

  • Rich2ndStreet

    I rode the Manhattan Bridge today and couldn't believe the crowds. It felt great.

  • Sean Kelliher

    One thing I'd like to point out - the places shown in this video with high levels of bike traffic are all Class I facilities - separated from motor vehicle traffic. I think it reinforces the message: if you build good quality bicycle infrastructure, people will use it!

    Thank you, Clarence. And, as others have mentioned, it's incredible to see the Second Avenue lane below 14th Street during the evening rush hour. It seems like there's someone on a bicycle every 10 feet.

  • Bronxite

    I think all the media attention on Citi Bike (negative or positive) has promoted bicycling citywide. People must be realizing just how much sense it makes to bicycle certain trips. Combine that with the increase in infrastructure and the overall health conscious/green attitudes flourishing in the USA (especially here in NYC) and you get what you see.

    Here in the Bronx, i've noticed a significant increase over the years. Most people here seem to be pretty pro-bicycle and it reflects in the polls and on the streets. We could use somesome long range protected lanes on certain streets though.

  • Joe R.

    I second that. I love riding in fall and early winter, as well as early to mid spring. Even winter riding is OK if there's no snow, temps above freezing, and no strong winds.

  • Clarence

    Exactly. Class One! I think the next mayor will have plenty more facilities to build. We have the proof, it is out on the streets.

  • John

    The bike paths are getting a little too crowded, it's time to take some space from the cars.

  • Reader

    The 8th Avenue bike lane is already obsolete. We should fill it in to make it an expanded sidewalk, especially between 34th St and 59th, and re-purpose a car lane to make a wider bike lane.

  • Ashley

    There's no "H" in Williamsburg.

  • david

    Kinda boring film. Where are the gratuitous bike ticket scenes?

  • http://www.streetfilms.org Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I added in the "H" for Hipsters.

    That's only my 2nd spelling error this year out of over 30 films.

  • Stacey

    Williamsburg used to be spelled with an "h" until 1852 so I'm thinking it was just an old school shout-out. Loved the film! Thanks for making it.

  • Steven Kopstein

    woo hoo - so happy to see NYC becoming a biker's paradise. MORE protected lanes, please. 2-way on all the Aves in Manhattan would be wise.

  • Edward Smith

    Winter cycling is euphoric for the same reasons but only more so. I'd be willing to bet that if Citibike slapped so fat Nokian studded bike tires on a few of the bikes that ridership would stretch much longer. I'd argue the best time is in the densest urban area when a blizzard has shut down automotive traffic.
    My lazy a$$ did it for 4 winters in Omaha, NE with no problems after getting the studded tires; ride right up the side of frozen slush ruts no problem.