After Eight Weeks, NYC Bike-Share Usage Already Comparable to London’s

Earlier this week, Citi Bike nearly reached 34,000 trips in a single day despite the extreme heat. Image: NYC Bike Share

NYC Bicycle Share recently posted about ten days’ worth of new Citi Bike user stats, and it looks like the heat wave isn’t putting a damper on bike-share trips.

Less than two months after launch, Citi Bike now has more than 60,000 members. And with the heat index in Central Park consistently breaking the 100-degree barrier this week, the system is still logging more than 30,000 trips per day on average.

Between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Wednesday, bike-share riders made nearly 34,000 trips. That’s close to six trips per bike in sweltering heat. For some context, London’s bike-share system set its usage record during last year’s Olympics, after two years of operation, and even then the system didn’t exceed six trips per bike, according to WikiPedia. And while the London system has about 2,000 more bikes than New York’s, it saw about the same number of trips this June — 810,000 — that NYC saw in the last 30 days.

Each day, about 400 to 600 new annual members continue to join, so usage almost certainly hasn’t hit a ceiling yet. But in some parts of the city, bike-share is already bumping up against the capacity of the system at times of peak demand. Judging by Oliver O’Brien’s animation of NYC bike-share usage, bike shortages develop around Hell’s Kitchen and the East Village after the morning rush, then hit the Midtown and Lower Manhattan job centers after the p.m. rush.

Adding capacity and redistributing bikes (or adjusting incentives, like Paris did to encourage more Velib users to make uphill trips) can help balance out the system, and there’s probably some room for Citi Bike to improve on this front. But dockblocking and bike shortages will always persist to some extent. In London, which seems to have less-balanced distribution patterns than NYC, about 18 percent of the stations were either empty or full at the tail end of the evening rush today.

As Washington, DC, bike shops can attest, this is good news for businesses that sell bikes. Right now bike-share is giving New York a glimpse of the latent demand for cycling that’s been here all along. A lot of people who wanted to bike but didn’t own one are getting a taste of how convenient biking for transportation can be in New York. Since there are limits to what bike-share can do, many of these people will probably be in the market for a new bike pretty soon.

  • Daphna

    There are only 4,000 citibikes in the system, not the 4,500 that were in the system a month and a half ago. There were never the 6,000 reported/claimed number of citibikes. This means that there are far more than 6 trips per bike. It is more like 7.5 or more trips per bike. NYC bikeshare is supporting a much higher than average number of trips per bike than most bikeshares. It would be terrific if the system could expand capacity within the covered area. It would be terrific is bikeshare could expand to other neighborhoods also asap.

  • There may be bikes in the system that don’t register in the O’Brien map because they’re broken or in the shop for repairs. The O’Brien map never shows anywhere near 8,100 bikes in the London system, but that’s how many bikes they have. Standard procedure seems to be to calculate trips per bike based on all the bikes a given system has, not all the bikes that are in good circulating condition.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I wonder if anyone, anyone at all, will write about Citibike after all the bugs are worked out and lots of people are using it successfully.

    Already the armageddon predictions have been proven to be false and misleading information foisted on the public. I guess if you have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.

  • Having lived in London until a year ago, I predicted all along that the long-term issue would be redistribution of the bikes to avoid shortages and full docking stations. That’s certainly been the big, long-term issue in London. There’s a real knack to getting this right. I know that one issue in London was whether to use big vans (which take a long time to fill but hold lots of bikes) or smaller trailer (quick to fill, but only a few bikes). London I think ended up opting for more big vans. New York’s currently only using small vans, I think. London also seemed to distribute a lot of bikes from one central point (there used to be a spot near Ludgate Circus where I’d see staff standing with scores of them, waiting to load them onto vans). I don’t know whether New York has considered that.

  • Joe R.

    I’m finding it amazing that the numbers haven’t dropped off this week due to the hot, humid weather. Granted, I’m still riding myself, but at 3 AM. Last night, it was a struggle just to ride 15 miles. Anyway, it seems bike share is being integrated into the fabric of city life like walking. People don’t stop walking when it’s hot, and it seems they’re still riding as well.

  • Andrew

    To the extent I can help it, I stop walking when it’s hot.

  • Joe R.

    That makes two of us. I find I can tolerate riding in really hot weather, but I’ll walk as little as possible.

  • carma

    awesome news. i really hope the balancing issues are resolved. although ive said all along, its more than just balancing, but the fact that this system is just way too popular and more bikes (and stations) are needed.

    ive been riding everyday for around 4 miles even in the hot and sticky weather weve been having. i take my time and take a breather and have kept the sweat to a minimum.

    i am willing to bet that even in the winter, people will have no issues with the cold and the bike share numbers will be JUST as high (if not higher). the only thing that probably will slow us down is snow.

  • Clarke

    Citibike has two sizes of vans (Ford Transit Connect and a larger Mercedes-Benz Sprinter). I’ve also what seems like larger Ryder-style moving vans (not Citibike branded) via Twitter (https://twitter.com/ohhleary/status/356913792443101184)

  • Yukon Cornelius

    Snow will only slow us down if Norman Steisel manages to persuade his cronies at DSNY to not plow bike lanes.

  • guest

    thank you for recognizing that DC has a bikeshare system. In fact, we had the first bikehshare system in North America (“smartbike”) which ran as a pilot for a couple years before Capital Bikeshare (“CaBi”) started. CaBi was the largest system in the US until CitiBike opened.

  • Anonymous

    I remember fondly the good old times (two months ago) when people were arguing that the system would fail because nobody would use it because it’s cheaper to use your own bike…

  • Anonymous

    and…?

  • carma

    as one of the first riders on citibike during opening week, i got stares and so much applause for being on citibike.

    now, i just get shrugged off like a typical new yorker. absolutely it has melted into the fabric of nyc culture.

  • Ben Kintisch

    What a good problem to have – the system is so popular that now we have bike shortages. Regular people are saying “We need more bikes in our neighborhood!” Or, “When does the system expand to our hood?” Hooray for Citibike. I still maintain that we will have 100,000 annual members before Christmas, more still if Citibike marches on with dock placement beyond the initial footprint.

  • Anonymous

    Last weekend I was in Midtown for the first time this summer and I was amazed that about seven out of every eight bikes I saw were Citi Bikes–and that’s a conservative estimate. It’s just incredible how quickly this has taken root here.

  • Daniel

    One of the problems Alta is having is innaccuracy in reporting how many bicycles are in a dock. Near my work in DUMBO there are three stations and 10 am each day they are completely full, but the app will still show that there are 12-15 available on each of them. I think the stations get frequently disconnected from the internet because it can also take a minute or two to check out a bike at times instead of the typical 5 seconds.

  • Eric Dev

    No, this actually may be a result from many users request! Previously, the bike stations would report how many bikes were there, but you would arrive to find half of the docks with red lights on them, meaning it was out of service and you couldn’t check out that bike. It is much more useful to know how many WORKING bikes are at each station. But that means you can’t just eyeball it from your bedroom window.

  • Daniel

    I wasn’t clear. The app shows there are 12-15 parking slots available at each station, but there are actually 0 parking spots available. The app also shows there are 10-15 bikes but there are actualy 25-35 bikes there (depending on station capacity). For the number of bikes the repair status could be an issue, however the rebalancing folks show up around noon each weekday and I’ve never seen more than three out of order bikes.

  • Gerald Fittipaldi

    Original plans called for rolling out the Citibike program with 10,000 bikes. They cut back to ~6,000 bikes to start. Pretty soon it will be evident that 6,000 is not enough as Citibike scrambles to install more stations.

  • Anonymous

    One of the advantages NYC has over Paris (I think DC shares this) is that it’s mostly pretty flat, especially downtown where most of the stations are at this point. The lack of hills on most of the streets south of Central Park has probably encouraged riders who might not have joined if their first experience riding had been over more challenging geography.

    Great news that this is going so well. With any luck, it’ll keep the naysayers from blocking expansion.

  • Anonymous

    It really is remarkable. I was out of town for the rollout and the difference in the city’s bikescape when I got back was startling.

  • Anonymous

    When I first got out of the subway in Midtown and saw all those Citi Bikes, I felt like I was watching a fantasy come true–only, for better or worse, I probably wouldn’t have imagined anything as extreme as the reality.

  • carma

    i have no doubts that it will hit 100,000 members. (although by x-mas is pushing it). what im worried is when nyc bike share will increase the capacity to be able to support 100k members w/o major shortages.

    i guess these are good problems to have right?

  • Mike Dunlap

    Also, there was going to be carnage in the streets.

  • Mike Dunlap

    I had a guy in Williamsburg (of course) mockingly say, “Nice bike” when I was testing one out the first day. I bet that dude uses CitiBike regularly now.

  • Sparkyinnyc

    Its a great program!
    Some points to consider though
    1. The vending like citi bike machines and the bike stalls have malfunctions sometimes. About 40% in my area
    2. What will be the impact to subway and taxi revenues? Will this mean price hikes to make up for lost revenues?

  • Clarke

    About 20 Citibike stations are still under the Williamsburg Bridge at Delancey St. Wonder if these are for finishing up current roll out or steps toward widening the system’s footprint.

  • Eric McClure

    There were nearly 5.4 million daily weekday subway rides in 2012. 30,000+ daily Citi Bike rides are a rounding error compared to that, as significant as they may be terms of bike rides. And if those replaced subway rides are normally taken with unlimited-ride cards, there’s no effect at all.

  • Eric McClure

    This cockamamie scheme will never work.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps bikeshare is more of a competition to taxi rides, given that so many taxi rides are short and are used when transit is not the most practical choice (going crosstown, and particularly when going “diagonally”).

    There are about 13,000 yellow cabs in NYC. How many trips per day do they average? (There are also many more livery cabs, but they mostly operate outside the Citi Bike area.)

  • Ian Turner

    You’re right, if bike share can’t immediately replace the entire subway system within a few months of its launch, then it is an abject failure and definitely not worthwhile.

  • Eric McClure

    My point wasn’t that Citi Bike has been anything less than a triumph. It was that the attendant revenue effect on the subways is nothing to worry about.

  • Reader

    And the population of NYC continues to grow. So any losses in one area will be made up in another.

  • Anonymous

    If bike share users are like bike owners, usage will drop a lot in the winter. In the winter I see a fraction of the bikes that I see now. Other than delivery guys, I generally get the bike lanes to myself.

  • Greg

    For NYC, are there really ~2,000 bikes out of commission at any given time?

    If we trust Citi Bike’s data feed, there are clearly never more than 4,000 “availableBikes” in stations, even in the middle of the night when usage is presumably low. I understand bikes won’t be counted because of maintenance, redistribution, etc. But a full third of the fleet is out, all the time?

    I’d love to have someone from Citi Bike clarify this.

  • Anonymous

    If you account for stations saying they have 1 or 2 bikes when that bike is in fact broken or miss counted, citibike hits north of 30% stations empty after morning/evening rush.

  • Anonymous

    They only actually rolled out 4500 so far, and currently nearly 500 of those are offline/missing/likely in for repair.. Rumors are there are more bikes in wait, but they need to be repaired/inspected post sandy damage (though that was nearly a year ago now, so that excuse is waning)

  • Anonymous

    Citibike only currently covers the community boards (Bk2, Mann1-6) where 18% of New Yorkers live.. If you assumed that everyone currently with an annual subscription (not a good assumption!) and that it scaled out perfectly to the whole city someday (not a good scale per previous poor assumption) that would be on the order of 360,732 annual members in total as of July 23. (and we’d need north of 50,000 bikes to service them reasonably)

  • Anonymous

    I’d easily argue for weather between 40-70 degrees having higher usage (if that were possible) Though without more bikes, I doubt overall usage would go up much more than the 7-8 trips per bike per day..

  • Anonymous

    They didn’t fall off because the user numbers went up by a factor of 3… So there are >60000 users trying to get the 4000 working bikes.. resulting in .48 rides per user per day.. That number fell through the floor while the weather got hotter.. It can’t go up much though without more bikes being added…

  • Anonymous

    Rebalancing maybe adds one or two trips per bike moved per day.. unless they have hundreds of vans moving bikes 24×7 in an optimized way (which Citibike is far from currently) they won’t make a dent worth the cost.. Better money would put more bikes in and adding capacity to the existing station area.

  • Anonymous

    Alta isn’t that advanced yet, I’ve talked to them. they’re putting out other fires first and data quality is pretty low on their priority list unfortunately.. They’re working on the billing issues and call center stuff first.. Getting keys into hands even though those folks can’t get to bikes anymore as they’re all used.

  • Anonymous

    If anyone wants a bunch of more data/analytics on the CitiBike data combined with dock/bike data, you can find my spreadsheets here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aqw90KpnHC73dHBZVlhtZF9vOS0tVUhTOEtWT1YzTlE&usp=sharing

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