New York

Proposed Citi Bike Expansion Would Finally Include All Five Boroughs

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Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez is calling on the mayor to sign on to a proposed deal with the company that runs the city’s wildly successful bike share program, a deal that would double the size of the bike share and bring the blue bikes to both the Bronx and Staten Island.

Rodriguez has long pushed for a Citi Bike expansion into less affluent areas of the city, going so far as to put a proposed $12 million toward it into this year’s preliminary city budget. While Mayor Bill de Blasio nixed the cash influx, the deal on the table from Motivate, the company that manages Citi Bike, proposed expanding the size of the program from 6,000 bikes up to 12,000, and would be done without any extra money coming from the city. According to the city, it costs $6,000 for every bike the system adds, including maintenance for the bicycle and the dock.

“As Citi Bike has grown, it has become a fundamental part of New York City’s transportation network. However, that growth is limited; many lower income neighborhoods do not have access to Citi Bike,” Rodriguez, the chairman of the council’s Transportation Committee, wrote in a letter to de Blasio. Yesterday, the councilman was joined by biking advocates from across the city in calling on the de Blasio administration to move ahead with the proposed expansion.

“Every New Yorker deserves access to bike share because it is a cheap, flexible addition to the existing public transportation network,” said Paul Steely White, executive director at Transportation Alternatives. The group has collected more than 5,000 signatures from New Yorkers interested in Citi Bike expansion into their neighborhoods.

While the city has spent millions on several new ferry routes, its bike share program remains far more popular. Right now, the program averages around 60,000 trips daily — even the rosiest projections of the city’s new ferry service puts its ridership at just 12,500 people per day. The city’s ferry service focuses entirely on riverfront communities, where new condominiums have been popping up seemingly overnight.

Since its launch in 2013, Citi Bike has become the largest bike share in the country, rebounding quickly from pre-launch setbacks and delays. Citi Bike’s popularity almost became its downfall, in fact, as the original technology operator was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2014, after the city withheld payments on account of glitchy software. Under de Blasio, Citi Bike was restructured, allowing for an expansion of the program and the design of a new software system.

The proposed deal with Motivate, reports Politico, would include allowing the company to increase its advertising space, and also allow for longer rides for cyclists. Right now, rides are limited to either thirty minutes on a day pass, or forty-five minutes for members. It would also maintain the Motivate’s exclusivity in the city, as other bike-sharing companies show interest in launching their own programs. 

Rodriguez’s letter, which was signed by 25 other councilmembers, urged the mayor to continue growing the system after the end of its current expansion, after which no other plans have been set in stone. Despite ongoing hysteria over the loss of parking spaces, the city has continued to push for bike-share expansion into western Queens and upper Manhattan.

And while city politicians have, for the most part, enthusiastically embraced the program, the city’s own police department has seriously lagged on ensuring cyclist safety. In a dark milestone for the program, the first fatality on a Citi Bike happened last week, with the NYPD quickly assigning blame to the cyclist, and not the charter bus that crushed him. Safe streets advocates quickly called on the city to provide more protected bike lanes for all cyclists, including those who have fled the deteriorating subway system for the relative ease of a Citi Bike.

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