BREAKING: Citi Bike Vows to Get a ‘Handle’ On Fleet Outage Crisis

Citi Bikes aren't performing that well. Photo: Adrian Nutter/Flickr
Citi Bikes aren't performing that well. Photo: Adrian Nutter/Flickr

Citi Bike officials, responding to Streetsblog’s world exclusive this morning about widespread problems with the 12,000-bike fleet, now say the crisis stems from “unusual damage on some of our handlebars.”

The following message was emailed early Wednesday afternoon to Citi Bike’s 145,000 annual members:

Dear Citi Bike Member,

We know you rely on Citi Bike to get around New York City, and we’re grateful to have you as a member of our community. As part of our efforts to provide you with the best possible service, we wanted to update you on an issue that is currently resulting in lower-than-usual levels of bike availability.

We’ve recently seen unusual damage on some of our handlebars, and out of an abundance of caution we’ve removed a part of our fleet from service. We are working to retrofit this part of the fleet with the new handlebar design that we introduced this summer. It is taking us longer than we would like to make these fixes and get the bikes back onto the street, and we apologize that it’s harder than usual to find a bike. We’re devoting extra resources to this issue and expect you will see an improvement in bike availability soon.

Your safety is incredibly important to us, and that’s why we take bike maintenance so seriously. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work to provide you the best service possible.


The Citi Bike Team

Left unanswered, of course, is the nature of the handlebar problem, which bikes are affected, and what it will cost to fix the problem. Streetsblog is pursuing those and other answers.

How we broke the story wide open.
How we broke the story wide open.

The statement follows Streetsblog’s story this morning revealing that there were only 7,166 Citi Bikes in service on Tuesday, Sept. 25 — down from 9,112 bikes two weeks earlier.

That’s a 21-percent drop in two weeks.

Even at the higher number, though, Citi Bike trails well behind other bike share systems in keeping its roadsters on the road.

A spot check on Tuesday showed that Chicago’s Divvy had 69 percent of its 5,800 bikes in racks or on the road, Toronto’s system had 83 percent, and Montreal’s Bixi had 89 percent.

Citi Bike had just 59 percent, down from the still-underwhelming 72 percent before the handlebar crisis. The city’s contract with Motivate, the Citi Bike parent company, requires 97 percent of the fleet to be available.

The data comes from Bike Share Map, which displays live data from over 300 systems worldwide.

The Citi Bike member letter did not satisfy one Streetsblog reader, who emailed us congratulations for breaking the story.

“So basically they were just going to lie and try to get away with it, and now that they are worried they will get caught by the media, they come clean,” our fan wrote. “That’s a company with twisted ethics and little respect for the customer! As they say, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”

  • Vronsky

    One only needs to look at bike and dock supply late at night to realize that something is seriously fucked up. Why is it that every mass transit org in nyc is awful?

  • AstoriaBlowin

    Pershing Square has been particularly bad lately, even outside of the evening rush. Usually you can expect plenty of people returning bikes on the way to Grand Central to help rebalance. But in the last few weeks, maybe because of a lack of bikes elsewhere in the system, there’s been a real shortage in midtown.

    Also, I hope they are not retrofitting all these bikes with the new angled handlebar design, I find it really uncomfortable. It forces you to turn your wrists in a weird way.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Does this affect other Motivate-operated systems using the same or similar bikes? I’m thinking in particular of GoBike in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

  • MatthewEH

    Bixi is an unusually well-run system. I’d submit that if even so their bikes-in-service rate is 89% — having the contract with the city call for a 97% in-service rate for Citi Bike was unrealistic.

    Also recall that Bixi shuts down for the winter, because Montreal. That gives their team _plenty_ of time to rehab bikes in the offseason.

  • Reporting gets results!

  • stephen_nyc

    First, I think that the bank got off cheap when it paid to be the corporate naming rights john for the service.
    Second, we need to go back to the bank and tell them to kick in more money so that these problems (and whatever other ones have cropped up) can be fixed pdq.
    Third, I sure hope the handlebar problem is not something they snap off when pressure is applied. That would be bad, to say the least. I remember back in the early 80’s when I was biking home from north carolina to nyc and I was in New Brunswick, NJ when, as I stood up, to resume riding after stopping at the red light, the handlebars snapped at the headset joint area. So, I found a phone booth (yeah) and it had the phone book (yes, really), and called a local bike shop. He was getting ready to close up for the night, but said if I got it to him tonight, he’d repair it tomorrow. So I got directions and walked the bike to him, got a hotel room, went to the movies (IIRC, it was a Star Wars movie), and the next day he fixed the bike and I continued on my way.
    Good thing it had happened there and not while I was flying down a mountain in North Carolina. Good times.
    I do wonder where the bank gets the parts from to repair the bikes. I should mention I’ve never ridden one, so I have no idea.

  • Reggie S.

    To add insult to injury not only they’re not getting the bikes onto the streets they are treating their employees like shit. They spend a lot of time, energy and money on fighting against the workers union TWU Local 100. Instead of investing into the core workers that they have to grow and expand the company to better serve the customer they rather lie, cheat, and deceive the customers, workers, and even the city pay attention folks 1 Love.

  • Rider

    You’re not using the right transit systems. My neighbors all love their late-model SUVs with comfy seating and state-of-the-art entertainment systems. And they park for free on the street and pay less than $10 a month in registration fees and use taxes.

  • William Lawson

    Arguably, the angled handlebars are a more “natural” position for your arms. If you hold your arm out with a closed fist, and then rotate the fist until the thumb is at the top – that is the most natural position for your arm. The angled handlebars put your arm closest to this state. Now rotate your fist back. That’s where the straight handlebars put your arms, and it puts more of a strain on your tendons.

    This is why mice are a major cause of tendon problems. It rotates the arm into a position which stretches them. People with tendonitis are often referred to an upright mouse, which can be used with the forearm rotated naturally (like the angled handlebars).

  • Dr. Bones

    While they are at it maybe they will fix the problem with the bells that go ding every time you re-grip the left handlebar close to the inner ring once you forget that there is a bell there. Admittedly I am an absentminded professor but this happens several times a trip due to the fact that the right and left hands have to hold the bar differently. People always think I am ringing at them.

  • muffinstumps

    North Carolina to NYC? That’s impressive. Glad it worked out for you. Yikes.

  • Wow, I have heard of snapping occurring on a folding bike, but never on a regular bike. That is a chilling story.

    Though the fact that you rode from North Carolina to New York City is remarkable. I once rode from New York to Washington, D.C.; so I take my helmet off to you.

  • stephen_nyc

    thank you to you and muffinstumps. By the time I did the north carolina to nyc ride, I had already done Bikecentennial’s Golden Spoke East (Pueblo, CO to Yorktown, VA) and then the whole shebang, their Trans-America Trial (Portland, OR to Williamsburg, VA). So, that ride was not as long.
    I’m sure you both have stories to share.
    May the wind be at your backs.

  • stephen_nyc

    Just curious, but what is the stated purpose of that bill ringing? As I’ve never been on the bikes, I have no idea as to its need. And why does one’s left and right hands hold the bar differently? Are the controls on these bikes some sort of newfangled, new-age development? As I understand it, these are one-speed bikes, so no shifter is needed. Brakes I imagine are engaged by calipers on each side, like my bike. One for front and one for rear? Or do you stop just by pressing your feet backwards?

  • Dr. Bones

    They are not one speed bikes—they are either 3-speed or throttle-style speed. The brakes are the usual kind of brakes, it’s just that the gears (on the right) and the bell (on the left) have the same mechanism—you engage them by gripping the part of the handle closest to the bike and turning. This works fine for adjusting the speed because it’s harder to turn, and you can leave your hand comfortably gripping that part of the handle without consequence. But for the bell, it is very easy to accidentally ring it unless you hold the handle further out. It’s actually an ****almost**** brilliant design if it weren’t for this little fact.

  • qrt145

    I think the occasional accidental ring is harmless. My complaint is the opposite: very often the bell fails to ring when I try to ring it! Sometimes you need to turn that thing way too much for a single ring. Maybe something got loose in the mechanism, but it happens too frequently for my taste. And it is semi-random, even on the same bike.

  • Can you imagine if the subway had only 59% of its cars in service ? These companies must be held to transit standards… people rely on them for their commute !