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Upper West Siders to DOT: Citi Bike Stations Need to Be Closer Together

DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations between 59th and 107th streets. Map: DOT [PDF]
DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations between 62nd and 107th streets. Click to enlarge. Map: DOT [PDF]
DOT is planning 39 bike-share stations between 59th and 107th streets. Map: DOT [PDF]

Citi Bike is coming to the Upper West Side, but the expansion map DOT revealed last night has big gaps between stations. Like the map for the Upper East Side, the UWS plan calls for fewer stations per square mile than the current Citi Bike service area.

Both neighborhoods are among the densest residential areas in the city and have major destinations like hospitals and museums. If stations are too few and far between, the system will be poorly-equipped to provide good service.

At a meeting of the Manhattan Community Board 7 transportation committee last night, DOT showed the draft map for 39 bike-share stations between 62nd and 107th streets [PDF 1, 2], the product of a public planning process that stretches back several years.

Nearly 200 people showed up. While there was no shortage of Rabinowitz-esque opposition to "commercialization" and the loss of free on-street parking, most people were eager for bike-share's arrival.

“We recognize that every parking space is needed and valued by the community," said DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione. "But listen, there’s a trade-off. This is a great amenity and a great asset for the community." The crowd then erupted in booming applause.

Several audience members told DOT they wanted stations spaced closer together, and closer to major destinations. "I don’t think this is going to be enough bikes to satisfy the need,” said Pamela Margolin, who lives on West 81st Street across from the Museum of Natural History. “We need to have enough bikes to make it work. I don’t think those two stations [near the museum] are going to be enough.”

Another deficiency spotted last night: DOT is proposing bike-share stations a few blocks away from many subway entrances, rather than right next to them to enable easy connections. “You should be able to walk out of the subway and see a Citi Bike station,” CB 7 committee member Ken Coughlin told DOT.

In a press release last month about the National Association of City Transportation Officials' recommendations on bike-share station density, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg noted that "creating a dense network of stations -- always separated by walkable distances -- has been key to Citi Bike's popularity. This guiding principle is one we will continue to follow as the network continues to grow in the coming years." A look at the numbers, however, confirms that DOT's plans for the Upper West Side and Upper East Side will stretch the bike-share expansion zone too thin.

CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo addresses nearly 200 people waiting to learn more about Citi Bike station locations last night. Photo: Stephen Miller
Nearly 200 people came out to learn about Citi Bike station locations last night. Photo: Stephen Miller
CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo addresses nearly 200 people waiting to learn more about Citi Bike station locations last night. Photo: Stephen Miller

"The planning principle for the system is 28 [stations] per square mile. That's what Paris and London and all the early systems were built on. That's what we aim for in ours," John Frost, executive director of bike-share at DOT, said last night. "What I'm shooting for is uniformity [of station density] across every neighborhood."

The existing Citi Bike system density falls somewhat lower, at 23 stations per square mile, according to NACTO.

In DOT's proposed Manhattan expansion zones, the station density would be lower still. Community Board 7 covers 1.9 square miles, according to the Department of City Planning, meaning that Citi Bike will have roughly 21 stations per square mile on the Upper West Side. There are no stations planned inside Central Park. DOT is also planning 39 stations in two square miles of Community Board 8, putting coverage on the Upper East Side at 20 stations per square mile.

Stations on the Upper West Side will have an average of 35 docks each, Frost said, but the exact size of each station has yet to be determined.

Forgione said DOT plans to tell CB 7 its final list of station locations within two months. Then, Citi Bike parent company Motivate will begin installation. Forgione said recently that stations could be installed up to 86th Street as soon as the tail end of summer, but didn't give specifics about the timeline for implementation last night.

Motivate, which is currently upgrading software and components in its existing stations, has only promised that expansions in Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bedford-Stuyvesant will come online in the second half of this year, likely in the summer. The rest of the system, including Manhattan up to 130th Street and expansions to areas in Brooklyn south of Atlantic Avenue, is slated to go live by the end of 2017.

While last night's meeting was dedicated to bike-share station locations, a big concern on the Upper West Side is the safety of riding on the neighborhood's major avenues. Council Member Helen Rosenthal has backed a protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue, which would complement the southbound protected lane on Columbus Avenue.

Soon after endorsing the bike lane, Rosenthal reappointed one of its biggest opponents, CB 7 transportation committee co-chair Dan Zweig. CB 7 chair Elizabeth Caputo said the committee will devote its next meeting to a broad spectrum of bicycle education, safety, and enforcement issues, but made no promises about pushing for specific bike lane plans now that Citi Bike is on the horizon. The committee is next scheduled to meet on June 9.

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