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New York Cycling Census Yields Unprecedented Insights on Bicycling in the Empire State from more than 13,700 New Yorkers

May 15, 2023

The New York Cycling Census - a statewide survey that yielded more than 13,700 responses from every county in the state - provides new insights into the motivators and barriers to bicycling.

A new report and online data dashboard from Urban Cycling Solutions (UCS) details findings from the New York Cycling Census, an unprecedented statewide survey on biking In New York.

Key findings from 13,740 individuals representing every county in the state include:

  • mental health and wellness is one of the most important factors motivating New Yorkers to bike;
  • basic bike maintenance is the most sought-after training, especially among women;
  • 88% of respondents expressed some level of interest in bike tourism;
  • lack of bike lanes and safe routes is the number one barrier to bicycling in New York State, followed by weather and fear of conflict with cars.
  • nearly 90% of respondents indicated they bike just as much or more than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • bike trails are the highest-rated type of bicycle infrastructure in the state.
  • Cycling Census respondents save approximately 1,451 metric tons of CO2 in a year through their riding, the equivalent of 163,263 gallons of gasoline, and 3,601,472 miles driven by an average gasoline-powered passenger vehicle.

"The overwhelming response to the Cycling Census is a raw indicator of the appetite for biking in New York State," said Dan Suraci, principal of UCS. "The insights gleaned from this unprecedented dataset will shape public policy, infrastructure and education around cycling for years to come."

The Cycling Census includes a final report summarizing key findings, and an online data dashboard. The intent with these resources is to enable interested individuals and agencies to utilize the data to help inform policy and funding opportunities that get more New Yorkers bicycling safely, on road and off, and for a variety of purposes - transportation, health and mental wellness, tourism or recreation. Both of these tools are freely available here:

"Most decisions about bicycling are shaped by a combination of crash statistics and anecdotal information,” said Suraci. “Now we have real data on why and where New Yorkers choose to bike, as well as the specific barriers preventing them from cycling more."

In addition to quantitative data, the Cycling Census yielded more than 13,000 comments from New Yorkers ranging from the need for more protected bike infrastructure to education for drivers and law enforcement. Additional comments focused on the positive impacts ebikes have had on individual riding experiences, the ability to connect biking with transit, barriers that prevent women from bicycling more, and a need for more secure parking.

“New Yorkers have spoken, and they want more biking for mental health and wellness, tourism opportunities, close to home recreation, fun and more!,” said Paul Winkeller, Senior Associate at UCS, and former Executive Director of the New York Bicycling Coalition. “With this data we can apply insights directly from cyclists of all ages and abilities to help shape the way that public policy and targeted local and regional investments enable New Yorkers to move safely and recreate within their communities of all sizes, across the state.

The report includes a series of opportunities and next steps to consider based on the data, and qualitative insights. Highlights include:

  • streamlining coordination between local, county and state governments to facilitate complete street projects - particularly on state roadways that service as primary commercial thoroughfares and tourism corridors in New York's villages, towns and cities;
  • an expansion of open street events such as 'summer streets' in NYC to raise awareness of complete streets;
  • subsidizing the purchase of e-bikes in NYS and creating consistent regulations at the local level;
  • overhauling education materials related to active transportation in the state drivers manual and state police academy curriculum to enhance cyclist safety awareness for both consumers and law enforcement.

Led by UCS, and in collaboration with the University Transportation Research Center at CUNY, the 2022 New York Cycling Census is the largest and most expansive statewide survey of cyclists ever conducted in the U.S. This effort was supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). More than 150 state agencies, local governments, advocacy organizations, and grassroots stakeholder groups assisted in the distribution of the survey across every county in New York State.


NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “NYSERDA is proud to support the New York Cycling Census, which provides critical data to help scale the use of bicycles as a means of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. We look forward to working with Urban Cycling Solutions on the clean transportation options we need to build a sustainable future for our communities.”

“Regular physical activity has many benefits including reduced risk of chronic disease. The recommendations and data from this new report will serve as a valuable resource for state and local public health efforts to support policy and environmental changes to increase safe, equitable, and accessible bicycling systems with community design to improve active transportation networks and recreation opportunities for many New York communities.” - Dan French, Manager, State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program, New York State Department of Health

“AAA is committed to fostering an equitable transportation system that includes pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. This report and public-facing data dashboard is a big step in the right direction for helping us achieve the goal of a mobility landscape that is safe for all our citizens - no matter where they live and how they get from place to place.” - John Corlett, Vice President Public & Government Affairs, AAA Northeast

“We applaud Urban Cycling Solutions for implementing a survey that provides real data on what motivates New Yorkers to bike, as well as some of the barriers preventing people from cycling,” said Ken Podziba, President and CEO of Bike New York. “This important information will help public policymakers, advocates, tourism bureaus, and nonprofits, like Bike New York, to more precisely understand bicyclists’ behavior as they strive to create a healthier, greener, and more vibrant New York.”

“This survey shows that New Yorkers want more places to bike safely and that government must build the active transportation network of the future to meet this demand for car-free transportation,” said Carter Strickland, VP Mid-Atlantic Region and New York State Director, Trust for Public Land. “Greenways will provide a broad range of transportation, health, resilience, and economic benefits to all New Yorkers, and TPL is working for greenway access in every community.”

“Transportation planners are always in search of desegregated and travel data in order to develop models and perform analyses to better understand and perform needed improvement into our transportation systems. This cycling census is an additional piece of the puzzle that will go a long way to improve current transportation demand models by providing a very informative insight on a mode that is often left out from transportation analyses.” - Camille Kamga, Director, University Transportation Research Center at City University of NY

“As this research makes clear: New Yorkers want to bike, and our city and our state have an obligation to make biking safer and more accessible. Armed with this new data, we must build the infrastructure necessary to encourage new riders and protect existing cyclists. If leaders in New York state are serious about fighting climate change, it’s time to prioritize, support, and fund sustainable transportation options like biking.” - Danny Harris, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives

“This cycling census is timely, in a number of ways. First, we know that no matter where they live - urban, suburban or rural - many New Yorkers get to and enjoy local and regional parks by bicycle. Second, similar to their experience in parks, we now know, thanks to this census, that one of the primary motivations folks ride a bike is for fitness and mental health. Finally, when it comes to tourism this census confirms what PTNY has been advocating for years - that bikes bring business and are an important driver of economic development across the state.” - Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Parks & Trails New York

"The New York Cycling Census provides an underpinning of data confirming how riding a bicycle, for whatever reason, is important to the health and wellness of our citizens and our warming climate," notes Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator and Professor at Bennington College.  "This important and timely report will help meet the public policy challenge of accelerating our transportation system to include more low-impact, carbon-free and small-scale mobility options."

"New York communities - from small towns, suburbs and rural areas to big cities and dense urban centers - are not yet providing enough safe, small-scale, human-powered multi-mobility options like bicycling, especially for marginalized communities and people of color," notes long time environmental justice supporter and advocate Jeff Jones."This timely census report and public-facing data dashboard will enlighten our evolving public policy and move us toward achieving the goal of a fairer, safer and more equitable transportation system across New York State."

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Cycling Census Report and Dashboard:

About Urban Cycling Solutions

Urban Cycling Solutions is a catalytic consulting enterprise dedicated to empowering communities with active transportation, public art complete streets and integrated multimodal mobility networks. We partner with communities and transportation agencies to transform the way people move with the right combination of infrastructure, policy and education. Our pragmatic approach begins with alignment on a community's unique vision and mobility goals.

We apply our vast knowledge of emerging transportation technologies, trends and innovations to create customized solutions which optimize connectivity and consumer choice as well as higher social, economic, safety and public health outcomes.