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The effects of biking in the big apple

(Editor’s note: This is a guest blog by C.J. Mayer, a high school student in New York City; Next Generation asked C.J. to write several posts on climate and energy topics, and the following reflects his personal views.)

The emergence of CitiBike, a bike-share program, has changed the landscape of New York City. In the 13 months since its launch in May 2013, New Yorkers have travelled 17.3 million miles using CitiBike. Biking instead of driving those 17.3 million miles saved roughly 14 million pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air. While trying to increase the number of people who bike in New York may be difficult, it must be done to further improve transportation and help reduce air pollution.


A CitiBike Station in Midtown Manhattan


Biking in NYC has huge upsides for both bikers and public health. Due to the emergence of CitiBike and the creation of more bike lanes by former mayor Michael Bloomberg, a growing number of New Yorkers are taking to the streets on two wheels instead of four. Danny Gridley is a high school student in Manhattan, and he is one of the few students who bikes to our school every day. Danny bikes because it saves him time; a bus ride across the city takes Danny 45 minutes, but biking takes him only 15. Not only is biking faster, but it’s also cheaper; the annual cost of membership with CitiBike is 26 cents per day.

Biking improves transportation in the city, but how much of an effect does it really have on the environment? For every single New Yorker who travels to work via bike, instead of car, 4,000 less pounds of CO2 are released per year into the environment. If only one percent of NYC commuters who travel to work via automobile switched to biking, it would save 93.4 million pounds of CO2 per year. Biking means better transportation and a significantly better environment.

However, there are problems with biking in the city. “Bike theft is a serious threat, even with a good lock,” Danny Gridley says.


It’s hard to go a few blocks without this sight in NYC


Biking can also be dangerous. Imran, another student in my high school, says, “Citibike is a good idea and should be expanded, [but biking is] so unsafe.” Danny agrees. “New York will never be a Portland or Boston where biking is more widespread [until…] drivers [become more] bike friendly [and] the streets [become more] bike friendly,” he says. In addition, CitiBike does not provide helmets for its riders.

How can we encourage and develop biking? If New York is going to expand its use of bikes, building more bike lanes is crucial to ensure safety for kids. Danny says “we need more [bike] lanes first, then more bikes.”  It is important that Mayor Bill de Blasio continues Bloomberg’s work to improve bike safety.


Seen on the subway


So is it worth the effort to focus on making New York a more bike-friendly city? Twenty percent of New York taxi rides travel less than 1 mile. That’s just a 3-minute ride on a bike. If those 1-mile taxi rides turned into bike rides, it would save the equivalent amount of CO2 as growing a forest as big as Redwood National Park in California, each year. Biking results in a better transportation system, a healthier city, and a greener world.

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