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Study: New Yorkers Not Embracing Bikes for Commuting

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A man rides a bicycle through Times Square - File / Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A man rides a bicycle through Times Square – File / Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Other cities have pulled ahead of New York when it comes to bicycling to work, a new study says, despite a controversial push by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to build bike lanes across the city.

The percentage of New Yorkers commuting by bicycle barely budged between 1990 and 2009, rising from 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent, according to the study by researchers at Rutgers University and Virginia Tech.

In Chicago, the rate increased fourfold during that time. It tripled in Washington, San Francisco and Minneapolis. And in Portland, Ore., the rate went from 1.1 percent to 5.8 percent of commuters.

A New York City spokesman said the study, which relied on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, underestimates the number of bike riders.

It does not count commuters who bike fewer than three times a week and also ignores riders who cycle for fun or to school, said Seth Solomonow of the city’s transportation department. He also said the city has added more bike lanes since the last survey was done in 2009.

“Our position is that the Census figures do not count all of the cyclists,” Solomonow said.

Since 2002, the Bloomberg administration has built dozens of new bike lanes across the city. Some residents complain the lanes cause traffic jams, pollution and noise by eliminating space for cars. Some neighborhood activists are fighting in court to have bike lanes removed.

By 2009 New York already had 666 miles of bike lanes and dedicated bike paths, more than any other U.S. city, the report said. Phoenix was second with 468 miles, and Scottsdale, Ariz., had 449 miles, said the study, which was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The New York City government says the number of fatal cycling crashes and serious injuries has dropped because of the new bike lanes.

But New York still needs to do more to protect cyclists, said John Pucher, an urban planning professor and co-author of the study. Cars frequently block the bike lanes, and New York authorities have been less aggressive than other cities in launching sting operations against motorists or requiring remedial training classes, he said.

“There’s a lack of law enforcement, both for what drivers are doing as well as cyclists,” Pucher said.

As a result, cycling is still seen as an extreme sport in New York, Pucher said.

That may also explain why fewer women bicycle in New York than in other cities, he said. Only 20 percent of the city’s bicycle commuters are women, compared with 24 percent nationwide and more than 30 percent in places like Chicago, Minneapolis or Washington.

Other studies have shown that women are more cautious cyclists, Pucher said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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