Bicycles Seen as Big Ingredient in Lower Manhattan Business Rebound

Even on rainy days, like this recent one on the Hudson River Greenway, bikeable routes to Lower Manhattan can make for a quick commute from neighborhoods below 23rd Street and parts of Brooklyn, according to a Downtown Alliance report. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Aug. 13, 2020

Could the post-covid rebound of Lower Manhattan’s businesses be riding on two wheels?

In a report released this week on bike commuting to Manhattan below Chambers Street, the Downtown Alliance argues that Lower Manhattan will have an upper hand in getting workers back to the office. Thats thanks in part, the report says, to the area’s accessibility to cyclists via an expanding 2.3 mile network of bike lanes as well as the Hudson River Greenway, an already growing number of bicycle commuters, plenty of Citi Bike stations, and a workforce thats young and lives in easy biking distance to their jobs.

According to Citi Bike data quoted by the Alliance, Lower Manhattan below Chambers Streets is within a 15-minute bike commute from most neighborhoods below 23rd Street and “key” neighborhoods in Brooklyn. While a 2019 survey showed that only 2 percent of Lower Manhattan workers commuted by bike (another 20 percent walk), the study indicates that the number is poised to grow amid the cautiousness around subway travel.

“What was surprising to me was how many people, half a million people, could easily bike to work,” Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, said in a phone interview.”

“It’s an advantage,” she added. “It’s something that makes us competitive.” 

And for some businesses, the Alliance suggests, it’s part of a lifeline to recovery. “I think it’s going to be a while before we have the same hustle and bustle, so it worries me for our local businesses,” Lappin said. “I think it’s going to be really hard for them to survive without the workforce being back in some critical mass.”

“It’s crucial that commuters have options, and especially now that theres so much repudiation around riding the subway,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Joe Cutrofo, who noted that the report also lends credence to recent initiatives to make Lower Manhattan streets, especially in the Financial District, free of vehicular traffic, or shared with pedestrians. “I think the Downtown Alliance is really on to something.”