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Bike Sharing

Stringer’s Citi Bike Report Is Woefully Behind the Times

5:09 PM EST on December 15, 2014

Comptroller Scott Stringer's office took so long to produce an audit of Citi Bike maintenance that major issues flagged in the report no longer appear to be affecting the system.

Citi Bike had a maintenance backlog a year ago, but not today. Photo: Velojoy

The report dropped Thursday night, and on Friday several media outlets came out with stories following the lead of Stringer's "scathing" press release, which emphasized Citi Bike's failure to meet bike maintenance targets last winter. At the time, financially struggling operator Alta Bicycle Share cut several mechanics as colder weather and lower levels of bike-share usage approached. The key metric Stringer's report points to, the share of bikes inspected by maintenance crews, fell far short of the obligation spelled out in Alta's contract with the city: checking 100 percent of the bike each month.

But beginning this spring, Citi Bike has gradually improved its maintenance record. In February, Citi Bike reported inspecting only 34 percent of its bike fleet. By June, the rate was up to 71 percent. And from July through October, between 98 and 100 percent of the fleet received mechanical checks each month. Customer service calls are dropping compared to the same time last year. The improvement began even before new management took over in October, injecting more financial resources.

The audit was initiated when John Liu was comptroller, and the news cycle following its release feels like the last gasp of bike-share fearmongering that Liu started propagating back before the system launched. (Curbed headline: "Citi Bike Has Apparently Been Unsafe for Riders Since Launch.")

Not everything is rosy with Citi Bike yet, and anyone who frequently uses it probably knows that feeling when the bike you checked out has squeaky brakes or keeps slipping back into a lower gear. But its safety record is on par with other bike-share systems -- which is to say, excellent. There's no indication that Citi Bike maintenance actually put people at risk.

If you want some tidbits that skim the surface of how Alta scrambled to cut costs and cope with disappointing hardware and software from its suppliers last winter, check out the comptroller's report. If you're looking for up-to-date, accurate insight into the current state of bike-share operations in New York, though, you won't find it there.

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