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Bike Sharing

Mayor de Blasio Gushes Over Dockless Bike-Share in Weekly Radio Show

Has Mayor de Blasio given up on Citi Bike or will his current flirtation with dockless bike-share pass?

Asked on WNYC's weekly call-in show on Friday about the dockless pilot program underway in the Rockaways and Staten Island, de Blasio first said Citi Bike has "been a tremendous success," but then offered some skeptical comments about the dock-based system, which the city has declined to expand beyond its current service area.

"I think you’re really downplaying the dockless bikes as a potential here," de Blasio told the caller who was asking for more Citi Bike stations. "This could be a way to expand much farther and ... in a much simpler matter.

"Dockless," the mayor added, "is able to be extended a lot quicker to a lot more places."

"This could really be a game changer and one that could be implemented very, very quickly," he added. "So no, there is no lack of desire to keep expanding the options. There is an interest in seeing dockless as potently as strong or even stronger option than the traditional model."

Motivate, which operates Citi Bike, had been in talks with City Hall to expand its fleet by another 50 percent, but de Blasio did not want the next round of bike-share expansion to replace on-street parking spaces, Streetsblog reported earlier this year.

As such, de Blasio's comments had some activists scratching their heads.

"Dockless bike share is a way to expand bike share to more New Yorkers, and that's a good thing, but the reason Citi Bike hasn't expanded ... is because the city has been reluctant to provide public funding for a city-wide expansion," said Joe Cutrufo of TransAlt.

Cutrufo added that dockless providers offer bike share "on the cheap financially as well as politically."

"They can drop the bikes on the street without needing to take away any parking spaces, as would be needed for Citi Bike," he said.

A mayoral spokesperson said the city had not lost faith in Citi Bike.

“The Mayor is thrilled at the success of Citi Bike, which has doubled in size under this Administration, as well as the potential of dockless bikes," said Seth Stein. "Our goal is to bring bike share to as many New Yorkers as possible, and we haven’t ruled out any strategy to help us get there.”

That said, Citi Bike supporters are dubious about dockless systems.

“The Citi Bike reliability factor, in terms of location and a strong working app ecosystem — you’re just going to get more rides from that,” Jon Orcutt, who is now TransitCenter advocacy director, but led the development of Citi Bike during the Bloomberg administration, said earlier this year. "There are good reasons that Citi Bike is used more intensely than dockless systems. [Dockless bike-share] is not a high-usage kind of system, unless you’re really going to inundate the city with them."

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