Bike Habitat’s Charlie McCorkell: Citi Bike No Threat to NYC Bike Shops

Charlie McCorkell is a pioneering NYC bike advocate and the owner of one of the city’s most successful bike shops, Bicycle Habitat. His flagship store is on Lafayette Street, just north of Spring, which is right in the middle of the Citi Bike service area. After observing the first day of NYC bike-share from the store, he sent a note of thanks to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Charlie McCorkell

Contrary to the sensationalism in the Post, McCorkell says that experience from other cities shows that bike-share isn’t a threat to people who sell bikes. Here’s a snippet from his message, which he shared with Streetsblog:

Best story today. One guy came in with his Citibike and told me he has not ridden a bike in NYC for 33 years. He bought an annual membership and at 2:30 had ridden for 2.5 hours. He recycled the bike 4 times at that point. WOW. He loved riding in the city today and wants to try tomorrow.

Today is just for blue key holders. 4 people came into the shop with Citibikes and bought helmets. A total of 12 helmet coupons redemptions at the Soho store so far.

Judging by my conversations in the shop on a beautiful first day, CITIBIKE is a hit.

I saw the article in the Post today about Frank’s bike shop. This is a concern I am hearing from other dealers. I have done my due diligence (spoke with dealers in DC,  Montreal, Madison and Denver) and understand the going gets a little rough for the first few months and then comes back.

Thank you, I feel this will be a major win for all New Yorkers.

  • Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

    There’s already a petition to have the BikeShare station removed from the front of Frank’s Bike Shop.

    Meanwhile CitiBike is offering a one day free BikeShare pass to anyone who attends one of their street skills safety classes. No surprise Bicycle Habitat is one of the participating bike shops.

  • Eddie

    Charlie, how much of your business comes from bike rentals? I’d guess a minuscule amount. On the other hand, Frank Arroyo has been building up his rental business over the last few years, and as a Lower East Side neighbor and a customer of Frank’s for many years, I’m very sorry to see him lose that.

  • Anonymous

    fwiw, I bought a bike and have used bike rentals in places not near my home for the past four years. And I NEVER would have done either if I had not tried Bixi BikeShare in Montreal.

  • Anonymous

    Why would he lose that? This might hurt rentals a little bit in the beginning, as New Yorkers and tourists confuse CitiBike with bike rentals, but as they realize that it is only free for 30/45 mins, it will probably help the rental business, as CitiBike introduces a lot more New Yorkers to biking in the city.

    Additionally, all the many bikes in the city will make tourists more aware of biking in the city, making them more likely to rent a bike to ride along the east river/hudson greenways, or within central park, and other trails/greenways in and around the city.

    Citi Bike will greatly expand the number of bikers in the city. And it’s uses overlap with the rental uses at the very margins (someone who just wants to try out biking in the city, so rents it for an hour). Bike rental shops might lose those marginal renters (especially in the beginning) but the bigger size of the pie means they should gain more customers, who keep the bikes longer.

  • Anonymous

    The Citibike station will draw customers to the vicinity of his shop looking to cycle. He should put a sign in his window, or better yet, put a kid next to the station, saying: “Want to ride longer than 30 minutes?” or “Want a lighter bike with more gears?” Rent a bike from Frank’s instead.”

    It seems counter-intuitive, but it is similar to the Starbucks effect on independent coffee shops. Starbucks HELPS them..

  • Anonymous

    The tourists using citibikes weren’t going to rent them from a bike store anyway, because then you would have to look after them all day, and couldn’t take them to restaurants, bars, shows, shops, etc.

    People who wanted to rent a bike to ride around the river trails and parks all day aren’t going to get a citibike, because after the 30 minute limit you get dinged for large overtime charges.

    Don’t get me wrong, having used Bixi and Velibs in Montreal and Paris I still think citibike would be awesome for tourists, but as a *transit* option for getting around the city. It’s a totally separate market than recreational riding, and bike share doesn’t work if people hogging the bikes all day on governors island (pulling a Felix).

    I know this has been restated over and over online, but I honestly can’t understand how the media still doesn’t understand the distinction. There’s a biggest risk from a tourist not understanding and keeping a citibike all day and getting hit with a huge charge, creating bad publicity for the system than there is to bike shops’ rental market.

  • Guest

    Seems like a pointless back and forth when there’s actual evidence available. DC and Boston both have bike share systems and are big tourist destinations. Anyone have any idea how long-term bike rental companies such as Bike and Roll have fared in those cities since Capital Bike Share and Hubway launched?

    That being said, I’d also argue that if a Bike and Roll outpost opened in a store across the street from Frank’s shop, very few people would sign a petition to ask them to relocate. I think this is more about people who hate bike share (the Post, local NIMBYs, etc.) piggybacking their pro-parking, pro-status-quo agenda on Frank’s understandable concern.

  • Anonymous

    The article below provides some interesting stats:

    I am not a 100% sure whether it answer’s Frank’s specific fears (about rentals), and also, Manhattan’s higher density means the 30/45 min limits cover a lot more ground than they do in DC, which might cause rentals to be affected more adversely in NYC than in DC.

    I hope that isn’t the case, and that private rentals also increase with CitiBike. However, I think there is a very strong argument that total private bike business should increase.

    (For example, I expect a lot of people who start by riding CitiBikes to work, switching to a private bike, since they are faster, more comfortable, and don’t suffer from “dock is too full/out of bikes” issues).

  • Larry Littlefield

    If he doesn’t get it, somebody else will. The helmet and padded glove orders will come in now. The personal bicycle orders will come in a year from now.

  • Marina

    Charlie, thank you for providing a bike-store-owner perspective and for all you do for bicycling!

  • Eddie

    The Citi Bike rack near Frank’s doesn’t take away any parking spaces. This has nothing to do with pro-parking agenda.

  • Anonymous

    I think “Guest”‘s point was about others WITH a “pro-parking” agenda (although in the Post’s case I think it is their “let’s be the worst news organization we can” agenda) that are piggy backing off Frank’s understandable concerns about losing business.

    That being said, I personally believe (and experience from other cities seems to back it up) that over a medium-long run, Frank’s business will benefit from bike-share, as opposed to being hurt by it.

  • KillMoto

    How can a car rental company survive in a town where there are plenty of taxis? HOW?!?!?

  • Guest

    Yes, exactly. I have no doubt that Frank’s concern is sincere, if misinformed. But part of the NIMBY strategy is to fight any station they can. If one can be moved, then they all can.

  • CC

    Near my apartment in Toronto there is a bike share station, and there are not one but two bike shops within a few hundred feet of it. And one of them opened SINCE the bike share program began. I don’t see how a bike share program would hurt bike shops.

  • Joe R.

    Bikes are one of the few businesses which have potential for double-digit growth for years to come. I don’t know why anyone owning a bike shop thinks bike share will hurt their business. Quite the opposite. New riders try the bike share bikes. Some like riding enough to eventually buy their own bike. After that you may well have a steady income stream for repairs, parts, accessories, clothing, etc.

  • carma

    it just so happens im looking for gear for my bike because of citibike. ill be stopping by the store today. See.. bike share doesnt take away business. it ADDS business.


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