Cycling In 2024 – New York vs. Paris

A snap from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s video posted on LinkedIn on June 3, 2024

What does it mean to be a cyclist in 2024, in New York City, versus Paris? These are two big international cities that have been boasting about their cycling progress over the past 20 years. So who is winning?

Cycling in the U.S. enjoyed a huge uptick during the years of COVID, 2022-2022, and even trailing into 2023.  People had more time to engage in sports and other leisure activities as they worked from home.

Bicycle and bike accessory sales increased as well across the U.S. And it was safer to ride on the road during that time because there were fewer drivers on the road.

But how has it played out to 2024?

New York City itself has become less safe for cyclists despite widely advertised “additional bikeways.” Although NYC’s Mayor’s Office for Climate and Environmental Justice boasts that the city has built “over 479 miles of bikeways since 2014,” only 180 miles of those bike lanes are protected, and the vast majority of them are in adjacent streets concentrated below 42nd St. in Manhattan. By contrast, Paris has 1,400 Km of bike lanes and it’s a smaller city composed of 105 square km–akin to a well-maintained Central Park in NYC. Check out the overlay map designed by storage site SpareFoot.  

In 2023, the number of cyclists killed in New York City grew to a 23-year high, and the majority of those killed were e-bike users killed by trucks and cars.

Size of NYC vs. Paris

Serious injuries are also up, with 395 cyclists severely injured in 2023, 79 of whom were e-bike users.

Most of those well-advertised bicycle lanes are concentrated below 42nd street.  The uptown avenues such as Amsterdam Ave. and any other inner city bike routes that travel from central Manhattan to the George Washington Bridge, are not safer. In fact, thanks to driver lawlessness such as performing sudden turns in front of cyclists, and poorly marked bike lanes, upper Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens continue to be unsafe areas to ride.

There have been improvements to the bike paths on the GWB however, with new accessibility and entrances for the northern walkway on the bridge.

A lot of this emphasis has to do with our leaders. After Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office, the emphasis on creating a safe NY for cyclists fell out of favor.

Contrast that with the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who wrote on June 3, “In Paris, International Bicycle Day is every day! 🚲 Our goal: a 100% cycling Paris!,” she posted on LinkedIn. “Every week, you can discover new cycle paths such as the latest ones on the boulevards of Vaugirard (15th), Saint Michel (5th-6th), Marx Dormoy (18th), Michel-Ange (16th) or on Avenue de Choisy (13th)!”

In total, the video post boasts over 1400 kilometers of bike lanes in Paris. The lanes are not concentrated in a small area as they are in New York City.

In New York, cycling safety has taken a backseat during Mayor Eric Adams’ administration. After the City Council approved the use of electronic bicycles, their use has proliferated in a negative way for traditional cyclists. Heavy and fast, E-bike riders in New York are erratic and post significant risks for regular pedalers if in a collision.

A recent NY Times article by Dodai Stewart asks the question, “Have E-Bikes Made New York City a ‘Nightmare’? 

She writes, “…the explosion of e-bikes has also soured the way some New Yorkers view the streets. Quoting a source, Susan Simon, she writes, “In the last three years there’s been an enormous shift. The quality of life has gone down.”

“The streets are very dangerous,” Simon continued. “What used to be a wonderful walking city for tourists, for pedestrians, has become something of a nightmare.”

Detail from the NYC bike map, showing the number of bike lanes concentrated in lower Manhattan.

You can observe for yourself the number of people on mopeds and larger e-bikes using bike lanes, some of them with engines trailing wafts mixed with gasoline and marijuana as they speed straight through red lights. These vehicles and e-bikes are able to travel at 40 MPH, a speed well above the speed of a foot-pedaler (except in a race on a protected course). The weight of the e-bikes is also much greater, causing more damage to those it crashes into.

Although the number of cyclists being killed by cars continues to climb, now e-bike riders are adding to the fatalities, as reported by ABC News last year. Much of the increase also has to do with an increase in cyclists on the road though, and many of them are e-cyclists.

In Paris, the numbers are different: according to 2019 stats–which are not comparable, but the only published stats, cyclist fatalities rose in 2019 by 30% in France .  This prompted a call from the French Federation of Cyclists for immediate action, according to reports.  The significant difference–more people died in the countryside thanks to drunk drivers and speeding, which authorities describe as “lethal” to cyclists. Despite the trend, many localities across France have increased their speed limit in rural areas that tend to be remote. 

Towns it turns out, are safer in France. And with it’s voluminous number of via bici–Paris may be the safest of them all for cyclists. Compared to New York, Paris also has a very large number of scooters being used–rented in the same way that Citibikes are rented in NYC.  Users often leave them wherever they want on sidewalks and street corners to become temporary street “art.”

Let’s turn to the ratings: People for Bikes based in Boulder, CO, ranks Paris in the top 10 of cities for cycling and gives them an overall network score of 83. In their rankings conducted in 2023, Paris also falls into the 99th percentile of cities ranked, and according to PFB, is ranked no. 3 worldwide for large cities.

The numbers say it all: New York has a 55 city ranking versus Paris’ 83, ranks 71st in the United States, and comes out a 156 overall for all cities. Although it is in he 91st percentile for 1,733 cities overall, this is a pretty poor outcome for a city that boasts about the number of bike lanes and traffic calming it has built over the years.

Try for yourself–the many bicycle bi-ways in Paris, or braving the traffic in New York City for the bulk of the city’s streetscape and let us know!