New York City’s bike share system, Citi Bike has had a rough first year. The bikes are in bad shape, the docking technology is glitchy, and the system has been plagued with financial troubles for months. To make matters worse for the beleaguered program, New York City is asking Alta Bikeshare—the company which oversees Citi Bike—to cough up $1 million to cover lost parking revenue from the parking spaces the bike stations occupy.
Though dark clouds appear to be gathering, Citigroup is just peachy about the nearly year-old bike share program that bears their name. The financial corporation pledged $41 million to the initiative, allowing it to launch without a dime of public money. At the Ad Age Digital Conference, Elyssa Gray, director of creative media for North American marketing at Citibank, gushed about the popularity of the program and suggested that the bank is starting to recoup some of its investment. Ms. Gray revealed $4.4 million in earned media since Citi Bike’s launch and sizable growth in brand preference. Despite these indications of profitability for Citi, the program’s ultimate fate will depend on its ability to translate its much-lauded usage into self-sustaining revenue.
While Citi Bike is publicly bleeding money and senior staff, the program continues to be extremely popular on the streets of New York. The blue bikes have woven themselves into the city’s urban fabric like yellow cabs, or halal carts, or rats eating shwarma that fell off a halal cart. New data released by Citi Bike shows that the bikes aren’t just being used by tourists pedaling from MoMA to the High Line—they are a viable transportation option for the city’s commuters.
Citi Bike’s week of bad news just got worse. After reports that the program was short tens of millions of dollars, and plagued with technical and maintenance problems, Citi Bike’s general manager, Justin Ginsburgh, has resigned. He is pedaling off to advise a construction firm. It’s not clear what’s next for the struggling, but popular program. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city will not bail out the program, but it may allow Citi Bike to raise membership fees.
Despite what your takeout dinner delivery person may have you believe, electric bikes are, in fact, a fine-able offense in New York City. Nonetheless, Manhattan resident Jeff Guida is hoping to make these outlawed vehicles much more common by selling a small, portable device that motorizes Citi Bikes, the city’s popular bike-share network. The Shareroller is housed in an 8-inch-by-11-inch-by-3-inch box that, once mounted, turns share-bikes into e-bikes.
We hope you’ve stretched your hamstrings—there have been a lot of developments in U.S. bike sharing programs lately, and we’re taking another whirl through them now.
Although not without hang-ups, New York’s Citi Bike has at least not killed anyone yet. People love to joke about clueless tourists riding on the sidewalk, or on heavy-traffic avenues, or “salmoning” the wrong way down one-way streets — that’s true in Chicago as well as New York — but the fact that no bikeshare has so far produced little to no traffic carnage should come as no surprise, writes Charles Komanoff for Streetsblog.