Citi Bike, New York’s bike sharing grows in the name of sustainability

A typical scene: you get out from work and take a bike from the station near Bryant Park, riding through New York City headed to a new bar for a chat with a friend. Or you need it just for 10 blocks at lunchtime to go and see a shop in Soho that just opened. Citi

A typical scene: you get out from work and take a bike from the station near Bryant Park, riding through New York City headed to a new bar for a chat with a friend. Or you need it just for 10 blocks at lunchtime to go and see a shop in Soho that just opened. Citi Bike is expanding throughout Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, but also in New Jersey, on the other side of the Hudson River: this summer a new expansion project started and the number of bikes will increase from 8,000 to 10,000 this year.

Riding a bike without the hassle of storing it

Annual Citi Bike members rose to 105,465 with 467 active stations as of May 2016, and an estimated 1.4 million pounds of carbon emissions were offset: ride for fun, health and convenience as well as helping the planet.

“It’s easy to use, and I can use it for unlimited 45 minutes rides in the city – I can take it at one station and leave it at another,” says Veronica Tordi, who has been a New Yorker for three years and now member of the rising community of Citi Bike users. She lives in Bushwick, in Brooklyn, and every time her friends invited her for a drink in Williamsburg, a 20 minutes ride from where she lives, she preferred to stay home before the bike stations arrived in her neighbourhood. “Some neighbourhoods, especially here in Brooklyn, are so nice and vibrant but they’re not easy to reach with the subway, and with buses it takes ages to get there”.

Citi Bike Dock Station Chinatown
Citi Bike dock station in Chinatown, New York City © Luisa Gattone

An app to find bikes and docks easily

“With a simple smartphone, I can check the availability of bikes or spaces to leave my bike in real time,” Tordi explains. “This was thought for quick trips, instead of a cab, if you’re visiting or showing guests around, if you want to go from the office to the pool without always being underground in the subway, and also for going green”. There are 1-day passes for 12 dollars, 3-day passes for 24 dollars or an annual membership for around 15 dollars a month (about 180 dollars a year). “The issue here is that there’s not enough choice: I would like a monthly pass or something less than a year commitment”.

citi bike app
Simple and easy to check availability and nearest stations © Luisa Gattone

Transformation and gentrification, how communities view Citi Bike

In autumn 2015 Citi Bike expanded to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a historical neighbourhood which lately has been experiencing gentrification: the arrival of wealthier (and often white) people, causing prices to rise in neighbourhoods, which are often forced to change their aspect, and at times leading the original communities to be displaced. Residents complained about the loss of parking spaces occupied by the stations, low usage and that residents owned their own bikes and didn’t need the service. A local community organisation viewed the expansion as a form of distraction from wider problems, such as the health issues of a community plagued by highest rates of diabetes and obesity, and also unemployment and poverty.

Health Fun Sustainability
Health, fun and sustainability © Luisa Gattone

The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, under the Better Bike Share Partnership, teamed up with Motivate, the operators of Citi Bike, and the city’s Transportation and Health departments to get more people to use the system in a bid to improve the community’s overall quality of life. Filling the gaps in public transportation and giving a means of transportation to local people to go to job interviews, but also instituting corporate subsidies that allow employers to pay or participate in the annual membership’s expense. These were the keys to success against the fear of gentrification in the neighbourhood and the beginning of expansion in difficult areas.

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