Bike-Share Stations Don’t Usurp Parking — They Are Parking

Space hogs in Manhattan and Brooklyn are complaining about bike-share stations on neighborhood streets, and the powers that be are listening.

In a letter to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione, Assembly Member Dan O’Donnell complained about the much-anticipated rollout of Citi Bike on the Upper West Side.

Here’s an excerpt from O’Donnell’s constituent newsletter (hat tip to Peter Frishauf), which went out Wednesday:

First, the placement of Citi Bike’s docking stations and the resulting loss of parking spaces. Secondly, the lack of community input during a rather quick implementation process.

It is my hope that we can explore alternate solutions to restore critical parking spaces, and that increased dialogue with community will be a part of that exploratory process.

O’Donnell apparently believes parking for cars should be the default use for New York City curb space. He also seems to think the extensive public process for bike-share siting, which already happened, shouldn’t count because people are now griping about parking. All this in a district where more than 75 percent of households don’t own cars.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Community Board 6 is inviting local residents to complain about bike-share docks in its district, which includes Park Slope and Cobble Hill, and has scheduled a hearing for October 20.

District Manager Craig Hammerman told Patch he’s “compiling a list of Citi Bike stations that residents have problems with,” and expects DOT to make changes based on those complaints.

Like every other neighborhood with bike-share, there’s already been a lengthy public process to site stations in these areas. Now, in the impossible quest to please everyone, CB 6 might drag out the grumpy phase that always accompanies bike-share expansion.

Most people in these neighborhoods are not car owners — curb uses like bike-share stations and bus stops should take precedence over people’s private vehicles. After all, bike-share stations don’t “usurp” parking, they are a spatially-efficient form of parking themselves, and in dense neighborhoods where sidewalk space is at a premium, the curb lane is where they ought to be.

While the pockets of anger that greet every bike-share expansion eventually fade as people become accustomed to the stations, it would be a mistake to brush off these attacks. On WNYC yesterday, Mayor de Blasio referred to parking “taken” by bike-share and, repeating an earlier remark, said every station is contingent on “how well used they are.”

“We put in these stations, and it is a test in each and every case to see how well used they are,” said de Blasio. “If they’re very heavily used, good. If they’re not, we can take them back out or we can alter them, or change locations.”

  • Hammerman’s really wimping out on this non-issue. Very disappointing.

    You open the floor to enough cranks, you can find one person who will have a problem with each dock. That doesn’t mean these complaints are valid, outweigh the number of people who use the docks or merit expecting DOT to make changes. And if anything, the most problematic dock — the one on the sidewalk in front of JJ Byrne park — should be moved to the street. Will anyone complain about that?

  • JudenChino

    I live in CB 6 and I am fucking livid. Citibike has been absolutely clutch and literally has allowed me to visit so many stores/restaurants in our area without relying on a car service. For my birthday my wife and I rode to Ft Greene. But for citibike, we’d take a car. I don’t have to rely on infrequent F/G on weekends or the crappy local R. I can get around Gowanus, Cobble Hill, Boreum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope etc ridiculously easy now. Running errands are a dream. And you see that, many times of the day, especially weekends, there already is tons of actual excess parking spots too.

    I’ve written e-mails. I “tweet” at electeds. I would go to meetings if I didn’t have these things called a full time job and a family. These Mo—-Fu—-ers care about one thing and one thing only and that is free street parking and these disingenuous Mo—- Fu—- always couch it in terms of safety and protecting children. But it’s all just to protect their privilege. Most of us in CB6 do not own cars. But yet, we bend the fuck over backwards all day for them.

    And this is what really pisses me off. The Leslie Albrechts (who, generally, is a decent reporter) of the world (i.e. the neighborhood/local papers), should be treating these people, like the people who oppose Transgender laws on the grounds of “protecting children.” They’d have no problem editorializing that they’re using “children’s safety” to spread nonsense about Transgender people. They’d call that out. But here, it’s like “locals v. activists,” when it doesn’t get more local then transportation on bike. It’s not like the basketball courts at BK Bridge Park in which they complain about “outsiders” [i.e. Black teens — who, to be clear, obviously should be able to use those courts even if they ride the train to get there]. Citibike users are local.

    The market rate rent is so high as it is. It’s shit like this that honestly makes me want to leave NYC. I’m not going to spend $1.2 M for a 2BR when I can get a mansion for $400K in Austin or suburban Charlotte. Like, I expect to take my son to school on my bike when he’s a couple years older. Are we all supposed to just drop our kids off via our car [that the majority of residents don’t own]? So furious!!!!!!

  • JudenChino

    The staff at L’Albero dei Gelati had a complaint about that dock. They told me it should be bigger.

  • Kevin Love

    “We put in these stations, and it is a test in each and every case to see how well used they are,” said de Blasio.

    Does this mean that if only one car parks in a parking spot all day long, de Blasio is going to decree it “not well used” and repurpose that street space for something useful? Right?

  • “Compiling a list of Citi Bike stations that residents have problems with” is another way of saying, “Making a list of stations that have taken free parking.”

    It’s highly unlikely that people will make a list of stations they love. They’ll just go about their business and use them. At this point, it’s hard to expect anyone who isn’t a hard-core, plugged in activist to come to a meeting to express their support for what is, after just a couple of months, a rather quotidian part of their commutes. The only people motivated to turn out in force — and show up early enough to sign up to speak — are the avid parkers who want “their” free parking preserved.

    This is really the problem with the whole after-the-fact gripe session. We’re rewarding selfishness. There was ample opportunity to speak up about where bike share stations should go. Indeed, I was at a couple of meetings where people asked stations to not go in certain locations. DOT listened, came back, and showed us new plans that addressed these concerns.

    We really have to stop rewarding these freeloaders. Car storage is not equitable. And saying “how high?” after NIMBYs say “jump!” is no way to plan for NYC’s future. It’s insulting to the many reasonable people – both pro and con – who bothered to show up to talk about bike share for the last two years.

  • Bikes are vehicles when it’s convenient for NIMBYs to use that as an argument against bikes. “They always ride on the sidewalk! It’s against the law!” Bikes are toys when it’s convenient for NIMBYs to use that as an argument for free parking. “Just put them on the sidewalk!”

  • JudenChino

    100% Probably over 80% of the people who use Citibike in CB6 couldn’t tell you what a CB is.

    Whereas people who regularly endure the indignity of alternate side parking, are more than ARGGGh just so angry ………… must get back to work. God, so angry. They just better not take away my local stations.

  • JudenChino

    Yah, like the Gowanus Alliance saying we need a proper process as they also bloviate about how all bikes should be registered and insured. Like, way to give away the plot.

  • Right. And guess who probably doesn’t have time to come to a community board hearing? The staff of a gelato shop that gets a lot of business on weeknights after dinner.

  • com63

    That is the kind of complaint that is needed.

  • com63

    Does anyone have data about the turnover in bikes at a citibike station versus the turnover of cars on the same block? I would have to imagine that there is an order of magnitude difference in the number of citibike users versus private vehicle users on a given block. Especially if you weight the numbers per “car” parking spot width.
    For example a citibike dock that is 3 parking spots long might have 100 users per day. The remainder of the block which might be 100 parking spots might only have 50 users per day. DoT and Motivate need this data.

  • AlexWithAK

    There’s also a disincentive for supporters to come to this hearing given some of the behavior at other public meetings on bike infrastructure. Why show up just to listen to people shout and rant and even threaten those who disagree?

    If this hearing is merely for the sake of letting people vent, fine. But if officials (unwisely) accept the rantings of a handful of loud cranks as representative of the community, then we do need to motivate people to show up, however unpleasant the experience might be. What do you think, Doug?

  • Anecdotally at least, I’d be surprised if even 50% of the cars parked on Park Slope/CB6 streets move every day. From walking around the neighborhood, it seems that the overwhelming majority move online sporadically or on alternate side parking days at all. My guess is Citi Bike usage and turnover is much much higher than side-street parking spots.

  • Hard to say. My sense is they may wind up moving a couple of stations to satisfy the cranks, but I have no idea. Plus, I’d hate to see stations moved from the curb to the sidewalk. Parking is nowhere near as scarce as open pedestrian space.

    Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to come if you can, be polite, and take the high road.

    What’s frustrating is that I’ve attended no fewer than four bike-share meetings, but can’t attend this one. So all that work and time comes down to this kind of end-run? Seems unfair.

  • In Chicago I’m pretty sure people whined, because Divvy did end up moving several on-street stations to the sidewalk directly adjacent, restoring free parking and making the sidewalk even smaller, and the station harder to get to. There’s no easy way to tell why they were moved though. I’m tired of the sidewalk being used as the place for “everything else” and the entire roadway is cleared out for cars.

  • Jonathan Forte

    Plus, the bike stations daylight at least one part of an intersection, improving pedestrian safety. If we had parking rules like most other places, only the large stations would be “taking” parking from cars, and then only one or two spots.

  • steely

    from DOT’s park slope parking study we know that on average, spots turnover less than once a day. meanwhile, Citibike spaces, system wide, are more like 5 or 6x per day. since one car parking space can fit what, 7 citibikes? that’s like a 35x more productive and efficient use of that car parking space.

  • JudenChino

    It’s not just “time to come to a meeting.” I’ve been to them over Citibike when I used to live in Manhattan. You don’t get to speak. The NIMBYs line up hours in advanced to get on the sign up sheet and just rant rant rant. “My poor door man now has these docks in his way to throw out the garbage — they just passed a law requiring bikes in garages — they should put all the Citibike stations there”. Just insane.

  • dpecs

    ^This. I ended up emailing CB6 (because I have a work event on the 20th) noting that not only has this been an enormous boon for me transportation-wise, I’ve also been able to patronize businesses I probably wouldn’t have and would do so even further if there were /more/ stations on either side of the canal bridges and along 15th Street. Hopefully that at least wakes them up — that, in taking away docks, they leave money for the businesses in the community on the table.

  • Joe R.

    This just shows why it’s a horrible idea for governments to give away things for free. Do it for long enough, and people feel entitled. If government then wants or needs to use the things for a better purpose, people who had the freebies feel they’re being treated unfairly. NYC should have at least charged for curbside parking from day one. Honestly, I think it never should have been allowed, period, beyond temporary loading zones. If you want to own a car in NYC you should have a place off the street to store it.

    What annoys me even more about all this is car owners here comprise a minority, plus a fair percentage of them never even start their cars except on alternate side days. So their cars really aren’t even benefiting them. It’s just a security blanket for insecure people who feel naked unless they own a car. That’s fine but it shouldn’t be NYC’s problem to give these people storage space for their personal property.

  • Geck

    My informal discussion with car owners in CB6 suggest that most understand that the loss of few of on street parking spaces for cars is a reasonable trade off to bring Citibike to the area. It is really a pretty small but vocal minority that is complaining.

  • PeterDrier

    The largest Citibike station, 51 bikes, takes 3 parking spots. Those 51 bikes are ridden on average 6 times per day. Assume the station is half full and those three spots are supporting 125 rides/people per day. I highly doubt each potential parking spot is used by more than 40 cars per day (or 80 per day in a busy location with higher bike traffic than average)

    It’s not hard to show how much more efficient Citibike
    is..

  • Geck

    If you can’t make the CB6 meeting, you can still submit comments to info@BrooklynCB6.org

  • JudenChino

    Yah, the Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease strikes me as a poor form of transportation planning and certainly nothing that resembles “civic democracy,” or what not.

  • AlexWithAK

    And yet that’s what some of our city officials have taken to. The Clinton Ave bike lane was scuttled because pols and DOT don’t understand the concept of a vocal minority. They basically showed the toddler-adults that if they throw a tantrum they can get their way. It’s a terrible precedent and I worry it will be repeated here, though at least with CitiBike we have the distinct advantage of the docks already being in place with very high usage.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    At least the stations I see regularly in this area (along 5th Ave in Park Slope) are all set back from the intersection so no daylighting effect. If anyone I’d tell Hammerman they should be moved up to the corner.

  • AlexWithAK

    I have a car in Park Slope (sorry guys) but it does give me some authority to call these people out on their BS. Three docks went in within a half mile of my apartment and parking is no more difficult than it ever was.

    If these people really want to open up parking they should advocate residential permits to get ride of cars illegally registered from out of state. Yes some would give in and register in the city, but a lot of people, transplants especially, only keep their car because they’re paying lower insurance rates elsewhere (aka: fraud). That alone would more than make up for spots lost to CitiBike.

  • AlexWithAK

    This is my hesitation in attending this meeting. I’d have to leave work early and would miss seeing my daughter before she goes to bed, all to hear people frothing at the mouth over this issue. It’d put me in a foul mood and I’m skeptical my presence would make any difference. Talk about a broken process.

  • Alicia

    I’m not in New York, but sometimes when I can’t make a meeting, I ask my father, who is retired, to go instead, and he’s often able to do that. If you can’t go, there’s almost certainly other people who share your opinions who can.

  • Alicia

    Email the business owners too, perhaps, and let them know that CitiBikes are helping their business.

  • Brooklynite

    I don’t know. We’ll see how Craig and CB6 play it. It’s OK to hold a meeting to let people complain and vent and voice opinions. What happens after that is what counts.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Sorry to get parochial, and I know the expansion has been going community district by community district, but here is a chance for CB7 to go for the steal on behalf of Windsor Terrace and far South Slope. Any Citibike docks Hammerman gives up, we should grab.

    I suggest the no parking zone at 10th Avenue and Windsor Place, put there due to crashes due to poor visibility when SUVs parked at the corner. And the large sidewalk area adjacent to Our Lady’s Field on Windsor Place near the subway stairs. The Greenwood Park beer garden is another good spot. Some might want to bike there. At rush hours, local residents might prefer Citibike to the bus.

  • I agree and disagree. On the one hand, it’s fine to let people feel like their voices have been heard. In that regard, there’s little harm in holding a hearing.

    On the other hand, giving people this kind of forum so late in the game doesn’t send a great message. It says, “Show up late and we’ll cater to you.” Add in the local media coverage – which is always hungry for conflict, and one can see how this can easily escalate.

    The other problem is that constantly re-litigating old issues means the CB can’t focus on new business. The opportunity to solve other, more pressing issues gets lost.

  • walks bikes drives

    I completely agree. I have a car in Manhattan that I park on the street and I agree. What I have noticed in terms of finding spaces is based on construction. In a single block circle around my home, I counted 11 construction sites with scaffolding. Of those 11, 5 had on street blockage that took up parking with a net loss of 15 parking spaces.

  • walks bikes drives

    I was just looking at the citibike rack on Columbus Ave near me. The rack takes up one praking space for every 7-8 bikes. Just saying for accuracy as I am very much pro the expansion, and was excited to see two racks easily accessible to me, even though I have never actually ridden a citibike. But I could, if I ever wanted to, which I don’t. But I could!

  • ahwr

    Averages can be misleading, there are docks with hundreds of trips per day and docks with less than ten.

    If a dock serves on average 5 inbound trips a day is it obvious that more people wouldn’t use the space if it was car parking?

  • Brooklynite

    BTW… Who is this “Gowanus Alliance?” Their Twitter feed is an absolute disgrace. I sort of had them on my radar as a legitimate and responsible community organization. Then I saw their Citibike nonsense. Is it a real organization or just some cranky old metal worker or tow truck operator trying to hold on to the vision of Gowanus as an industrial wasteland, circa 1986? Have they also gone out and vehemently opposed 6-year-olds enjoying ice cream in front of Ample Hills?

  • Adamlaw

    Here, here bring stations to WT!

  • ahwr

    Motivate already publishes the citibike data you want.

  • Depends where it is, I suppose. On a commercial street, perhaps. But on a residential street? I doubt many spots turn over 5 or more times per day.

  • com63

    They should gather the DoT parking data and put out a cheat sheet about how much more productive their space is than free street parking. This needs to be a talking point that every citibike supporter can bring to CB meetings.

  • com63

    no way 51 bikes fit in 3 parking spots. I would guess more like 8-10.

  • ahwr

    If a dock is the size of two car parking spots and 1.25 people use each car, that’s two cars inbound per spot per day to equal some of the low use stations in Red Hook. Well utilized a Citibike dock is a much more efficient use of space than a metered or unmetered parking spot. I don’t see what’s so horrible about cutting a citibike dock from 19 down to ten spots when it’s only getting five inbound trips a day.

  • ahwr

    I think docks are ~2.56 feet per bike. 51 bikes would be 6-7 car parking spots. To get 8 you’d have inches between cars, and no large vehicles would get to park unless balanced by a smart car or something