Citi Bike Share Program 2013: New Yorkers Love It Despite Press Hullabaloo


Three weeks ago, physical evidence of the long promised bicycle sharing program emerged, when dozens of silver racks bright, shiny blue bicycles started appearing in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Initially on target to launch last summer, Citi Bike first faced kinks in the technology before Sandy storm water flooded the Brooklyn Navy Yards, where the bicycles were stored, and delayed the program further. 

A public-private partnership, Citi Bike received the majority of its funds from Citibank which put forth $41 million to pay for the majority of the bike infrastructure costs. MasterCard, whose logo appears on alternating bicycle units, paid $5 million. Alta, the vendor that operates the program, already runs programs in Washington D.C. and Boston.

Through June 9, 162,248 trips had been taken. Currently, there are 330 docking stations with 6000 bicycles in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Bronx, Staten Island and Queens were not included in this process.

Despite the fact that New York City was not the country’s first city to adopt a bike sharing program, the city’s ability to attract publicity quickly fanned the flames of the media.

For instance, last week, in a segment Jon Stewart’s Manhattan-based The Daily Show Stewart sent out correspondent Al Madrigal to uncover New Yorker Citi bike perspectives that ranged from (unmerited) belligerence about the (seemingly) lack of government outreach to residents that believed the stations would lower the (already sky-high) neighborhood property values.

Perhaps what drove the most of the media fuss, though, was a Wall Street Journal interview with editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz.

Rabinowitz earned her fifteen minutes of viral fame by claiming that she represented the majority of citizens and was speaking out against the "totalitarians running this government of the city" who were cowing to the "all-powerful bike lobby" and letting the best neighborhoods be "begrimed by these blazon blue Citibank bikes."

This comments quickly made the rounds on the Internet, spawning both a @BikeLobby Twitter account and a snarky Venn Diagram graphing the roots of conservative Citi Bike hate.

Yet despite the media’s hullabaloo, at a Midtown Manhattan bike station across the street from Bloomberg LP, New Yorkers’ perspectives were far more mild — if not positive.

“I think this is excellent and affordable,” said David of Manhattan, who only offered his first name and loitered around the bike payment kiosk for about fifteen minutes. "I spend $1200 a year on a subway pass while this costs $95 bucks a year."

Robert Hadi, an annual pass holder, saw Citi Bike as bringing the city closer together.

"When I've been riding around, people will ask me 'How's it going?' 'How's biking?'" he said. "I think it enhances the community spirit here in New York City."

Astrid Haase, a Long Island resident, explained that she had used this system back when she lived in Austria.

"It’s an awesome idea," she said. "You can go shopping and then skip out on the subway altogether when you’re coming back."

Her boyfriend, Markus Hafner, did admit that the system still had its glitches.

"The touch screen and credit card reader don’t always go through," he said.

This became apparent when Jared Carmen and Haley Goldsmith, both of Manhattan, arrived at the bike payment kiosk with Carmen already on the phone, exasperatedly explaining to a Citi Bike customer service representative that his access code was being repeatedly rejected.

"This is a good idea and we wanted to try it," said Goldsmith. "But we've already come from two other stations."

For almost fifteen minutes, the pair swapped different credit cards and tested access codes for before eventually unlocked a bike rented on Goldsmith’s credit card. Carmen, on the other hand, could catch no breaks.

"This is ridiculous," Carmen said.

It was as this point that this reporter unlocked a bike for Carmen with her own annual pass key and let the pair take a test drive of New York City’s experiment on the balmy June night.