The Hopeless Inadequacy of de Blasio’s “5 Borough Bike-Share”

City Hall announced small dockless bike-share pilots in four neighborhoods outside Manhattan today. Meanwhile, momentum for Citi Bike expansion has evaporated.

Proposed service areas for this summer's dockless bike-share pilots. Image: NYC Mayor's Office
Proposed service areas for this summer's dockless bike-share pilots. Image: NYC Mayor's Office

The city plans to launch dockless bike-share pilots in Coney Island, the Rockaways, Staten Island’s North Shore, and the area surrounding Fordham University in the Bronx, Mayor de Blasio announced today.

Each new bike-share zone will be small in scope, with no more than 200 bikes. The city says data from the pilot projects will inform future bike-share policy decisions going forward.

“We will start in July on a small scale in each borough outside Manhattan, and we will take what we learn over the next few months to make informed, clear-eyed decisions as to whether New York City’s bike-share future is dockless,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement.

The agency plans to select participating companies from a pool of 12 applicants next month. While the pilot zones won’t be large enough to assess how dockless bike-share services function at scale in NYC (the combined fleet for each area will be capped at 200 bikes), the city will be looking to evaluate “the safety, availability and durability of the bikes” and how well each company complies with “requirements around data accessibility and user privacy.”

The services are expected to launch in July, with trips limited to the geography of the pilot zones. In the fall, DOT will evaluate the companies’ performance and decide how to proceed with expansion.

While today’s announcement allows de Blasio to check “five-borough bike-share” off his to-do list, 2018 will also be the first year since Citi Bike launched that the city’s existing, intensely used bike-share system won’t be expanded.

Last year, Citi Bike operator Motivate and City Hall nearly reached an agreement to expand the network by 50 percent, including a significant service area in the Bronx, but never sealed the deal. De Blasio reportedly balked because he didn’t want bike-share stations to replace on-street parking spots, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Bike-share depends on network effects to be useful. Systems gain capacity the more extensive and densely packed with bicycles they are.

An expansion of the Citi Bike service area into contiguous neighborhoods would create vastly more transportation value for New Yorkers than a handful of small, isolated pockets of dockless bike-share. Even if the city gains useful information from the pilot bike-share zones that informs future policies, the fact is that City Hall has allowed a very useful system with a proven track record to stagnate.

  • DoctorMemory

    “We will start in July on a small scale in each borough outside Manhattan, and we will take what we learn over the next few months to make informed, clear-eyed decisions as to whether New York City’s bike-share future is dockless”

    Computer, translate:

    “We will insist on a pilot program too small and too far out of the center for any riders to get even a hint of positive use out of it, and will use the inevitable cavalcade of insane complaints from retirees and landlords at local Community Board meetings to justify shutting the whole thing down before it gets anywhere near Manhattan.”

  • Maybe 61%

    The mayor is 60% idiot.

  • Jeff

    Ha, and the service area shown for the Rockaways excludes the two use cases I can think of: People using bikeshare to get from the train to Riis/Fort Tilden, and people riding around those areas recreationally.

  • JarekFA

    Jesus christ just expand citibike. I live just outside the border and I’m going nuts.

    An expansion of the Citi Bike service area into contiguous neighborhoods would create vastly more transportation value for New Yorkers than a handful of small, isolated pockets of dockless bike-share.

    Yes. This is me. I go shopping and run errands all over Park Slope. I live just south of it. I cannot citibike home. I have to take the B63 instead. It’d be tremendously popular if it just expanded gradually over time to contiguous neighborhoods. This is so striaght forward and obvious. WHY! I’d pay $500 to expand Citibike to my neighborhood. I’d honestly do that. The time savings, the flexibility, would be worth it alone.

  • “De Blasio reportedly balked because he didn’t want bike-share stations to replace on-street parking spots, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.”

    Say it with me, Mr. Mayor: bike share stations ARE parking spots. The key difference is that in the space it takes to park two cars that might move a couple of times per week, you can park 20 bikes that move multiple times per day.

  • Blwndrpwrmlk

    60% is low balling.

  • J

    I think both Citibike and dockless can be effective in serving transportation needs, but this move doesnt really do much to seriously allow either in areas not currently served by bikeshare.

  • J

    Yup. This policy was designed to fail. He doesnt want to pony up the money for Citibike expansion or do the hard work to effectively regulate and integrate dockless bikeshare. This move checks the box for trying something but does not show any seriousness about that effort. Real cynical stuff from the Deblasio administration

  • 6SJ7

    The north shore of SI is a bad place to test this out. Most of the bikes will end up trashed or stolen. Better locations would be the large parks on Staten Island like Miller Field, Great Kills Park, Lemon Creek Park, etc. Places where bicycling already exists and away from residential areas where homeowners don’t want these bikes to end up in front of their homes.

  • meelar2

    200 bikes each in 4 small areas is a joke. It’s a toy system. We already know a lot about how these systems operate–they’ve been rolled out at massive scale in cities across the U.S. and around the world. No reason we couldn’t move forward with a much larger rollout for dockless (including seizing some street parking for bike racks) if the Mayor knew what he was doing on transportation.

  • Anon resident

    Deblasio has been clueless when it comes to bike safety, transportation issues for people with accessibility issues and areas where you have to take a bus to the subway. You have someone who is driven to the gym daily. He is almost like Richie Rich viewing with the world from the SUV and not a bike or subway.

  • Knut Torkelson

    Good. Hope it fails and we can expand the massively successful program we already have.

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