A delivery rider travels along Times Square during a snowstorm in New York. PABLO MONSALVE/GETTY IMAGES

New York has the largest urban network of bicycle lanes in the US, 2,213 kilometers, and its mayor, Bill de Blasio, is trying to further reduce traffic jams.

Cyclists are getting a dedicated two-way lane on two major bridges that cross the East River and connect to Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Queensboro, and more parking spaces.

It is part of a plan de Blasio unveiled last week in his final State of the City speech.

A city report in 2019 said that at least 1.6 million New Yorkers were bike riders. The pandemic increased bike ridership nationwide so much that there was a bike shortage for the first time since 1970.

When the pandemic hit the city the rental bikes company Citi Bike said demand had more than doubled between last March and September, to a record 2,520,045 trips.

De Blasio aims to leave a legacy of a less congested city when he leaves office on Dec 31. He has been instrumental in allowing city transport officials to make 193 km of protected bike lanes as part of the city’s efforts.

Cycling advocates have lauded his moves. “Converting car lanes into bike lanes on two of our most important bridges is a giant leap forward for New York,” said Danny Harris, executive director for Transportation Alternatives, a group that wants to reclaim city streets from cars.

“We are thrilled that Mayor de Blasio has taken up our Bridges 4 People campaign with his Bridges for the People plan.”

The city is also working on a bike safety program. In 2019, 29 cyclists were killed by motorists. Last year at least 21 were killed.

Problems persist

As the mayor redesigns city roads for bicycles, other problems persist for peddlers: theft and lack of parking.

Bicycle thefts have not stopped amid the coronavirus pandemic. Police said 4,477 bicycles were reported stolen between March 1 and Sept 21 last year, a 27 percent increase from the same period of 2019, when 3,507 bicycles were stolen.

Biking advocates also want the city to increase the current number of parking spaces on streets, 56,000. Last year the city added 1,150 bike parking spaces, many around schools and hospitals. At least 200 more will have been installed by the end of winter.

Shabazz Stuart, 31, a Brooklyn cyclist, came up with an entrepreneurial answer to the parking problem. He founded the startup OoneePods, which builds a modular pod that can securely hold 20 bikes inside. He has a few pods in Brooklyn, and using one is free.

Each pod opens with an access code or a key card and costs $100,000 to make, which is being funded through advertising and sponsorships.

Jon Orcutt, director of communications and an advocacy consultant for Bike New York, a group that promotes cycling, said: “More dedicated bike racks on kerb sides would lead to better, less ad hoc locking to whatever available street objects there are, and, of course, more secure spaces like a network of OoneePods would make bikes less vulnerable altogether.”

The city is also working on a $58.4 million program to promote bike safety.