Citi Bike To Triple Fleet Size And Double Zone as Lyft Coughs Up $100M

Competitors are furious as city extends monopoly to Citi Bike for another five years.

Many docks were completely full today.
Many docks were completely full today.

Citi Bike will triple its current fleet of 12,000 bikes — and double the system’s coverage area — as part of a five-year, $100-million investment from the company’s new owner, Lyft, to grow the largest bike share system in North America.

In a statement, Citi Bike said Lyft’s money would:

  • Raise the Citi Bike fleet size to nearly 40,000 bicycles and more than double the size of the current service area, which is limited to most of Manhattan and tiny slivers of Queens and Brooklyn. Citi Bike’s exclusive operating zone currently covers 30 square miles of New York. That would raise to 65 square miles — a zone that would include significant swaths of the boroughs.
  • Expand the deployment of pedal-assist e-bikes — though the company would not release a projected number.
  • “Immediately” restore the existing system to its required fleet level of 12,000 bikes. The company went through a repair crisis this fall, which, at times, idled almost half its fleet within. The company said the fleet would be restored to full strength by “the end of February.”
  • Expand the existing “Reduced Fare Bike Share program,” which gives NYCHA residents and SNAP recipients memberships for $5 a month.
  • Continue to fund associated operating expenses “to improve and expand the system.”

“This is a commitment to equity and delivering on our promise of ‘Citi Bike for all,'” said Caroline Samponaro, head of Bike, Scooter & Pedestrian Policy for Lyft, which owns Citi Bike’s parent company, Motivate. “We have heard countless neighborhoods asking for Citi Bike. So this is about getting something that works into neighborhoods that have been left out. And that will mean more riders and more daily trips.”

Citi Bike currently has more than 147,000 annual members. That number would be expected to grow dramatically if Citi Bike expands into commuting-distance neighborhoods such as Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Washington Heights, Hunts Point, Mott Haven Sunset Park, Crown Heights and elsewhere.

The expansion would be almost entirely docked. Citi Bike has experimented with dockless bikes with a pilot effort in The Bronx, but it has not enjoyed nearly the same level of ridership as the existing docked system.

“Citi Bike has been successful as a dock-based system and we want to build on that success,” spokeswoman Julie Wood told Streetsblog. “There may be some refinements as new technology becomes available, but we believe the docked model has proven very successful.”

Mayor de Blasio hailed the announcement in a statement Thursday, but it is unclear what, if anything, the city has done to precipitate Lyft’s huge expansion. Unlike other forms of mass transit, Citi Bike is not subsidized by the city.

“New York City is one of the world’s great biking cities – and it’s about to get even better,” Hizzoner said in a statement. “This expansion means tens of thousands more New Yorkers are going to have a fast and inexpensive way to get around their city. It also means much more reliable service for all the riders who already use Citi Bike. We welcome Lyft’s investment to make Citi Bike bigger and better. We are ready get to work with communities across the city to make this expansion a success.”

Empty racks like this could be a thing of the past by February. File photo: Ben Kuntzman
Empty racks like this could be a thing of the past by February. File photo: Ben Kuntzman

Samponaro said the city’s commitment would come in the form of “community outreach” to ensure that Citi Bike docks get properly cited in various neighborhoods. She praised the city as a “partner” in Lyft’s effort.

“The city should get tremendous credit,” she said. “They are doubling down on their commitment to create a more equitable system by expanding it into more neighborhoods.”

For all the good news for Citi Bike fans, there is some bad news for the company’s would-be competitors: Citi Bike will retain the exclusive right to operate bike share within its growing service area. The city will retain the right to undertake pilot bike share programs outside of the expanded zone — as it has done in Staten Island, the Rockaways and The Bronx.

Streetsblog asked Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg if the expansion of the Citi Bike exclusive zone suggested that the pilot programs had failed, but she disagreed.

“I think NYC has one of the best docked bike share systems in the world,” she said. “And I’ve heard from all corners, including Streetsblog, that people wanted to see the system expanded. We got a lot of good out of the dockless pilots this summer — lessons learned, things they could do better, things we could do better — and we’re looking to expand that system as well. … It’s not an either/or. But this is definitely a doubling-down on our docked system, which we think is world-class.”

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg is a true supporter of bikes. Photo: DOT
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg is a true supporter of bikes. Photo: DOT

So Citi Bike is de facto New York’s bike share company. Naturally, Citi Bike competitors were annoyed.

“After 5 years of operating in wealthier NYC communities, Citi Bike is now asking for another five years to expand and is still not committing to serve all New Yorkers,” said Josh Gold, Senior Policy and Communications Manager at Uber, which owns JUMP, a pedal-assist company that is currently operating in a small pilot area in Staten Island. “The city should work with all parties to ensure access to everyone who wants to ride a bike to get around their communities — not one company which has long left outer-borough New Yorkers stranded.”

A spokesman for Lime — which also operates a pilot program — echoed that sentiment.

“New York’s transportation equity problem requires an immediate solution — and the best solution for New Yorkers is for multiple companies to compete, delivering the most options to every community,” said Lime spokesman Evan Thies. “Lime stands ready to deliver for New Yorkers right now.”

Advocates for the poor also blasted the deal.

“Citi Bike has ignored low-income communities of color for years. We need a solution to fix our transportation equity problem now — not in five years,” said NY Communities for Change Executive Director Jonathan Westin. “Giving Citi Bike exclusive rights to an even larger service area will reward the company’s bad behavior with a monopoly, and reduce mobility options and competition at a moment when other companies could provide immediate access to reliable, more affordable options in underserved communities.”

Story was updated at 3 p.m. Thursday to include more information.

  • No word on timing?

  • Oh great. Good for the environment I suppose. I am not a fan of these things. I prefer people who ride their own bike. Something about ownership (or lack thereof) makes people ride differently.

  • r

    Awesome. Can the mayor finally get over his aversion to taking parking so we can finally get a good set of usable bike lanes to go with this expansion?

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    no. the reason they ride differently is because they have very low gearing and it does not feel like you are riding a normal bike.

  • Rider

    Hurray! Even though I was worried the city was going to abandon the system, I went ahead and purchased a membership–even though I live outside the current zone–after my own bike got badly vandalized. Private bike ownership is hard in a city that doesn’t provide secure bike parking–and I don’t work 9-5 or have an office, so bringing it inside during the day is not an option.

    So far the system is much better than I expected even with the current problems. It will be better still if I can ride it all the way home.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I approve.

    There are lots of people who can’t get over the hurdle of buying and storing a bike they may never ride. Citibike lets them try it.

    I’ll bet 2/3 or more of those riding Citibikes would not have used bicycles for transportation in its absence. So this will drastically increase the number of people giving it a try, some of whom will eventually buy bicycles of their own.

    Hey Motivate, health insurers subsidize health club memberships if people can demonstrate they use the exercise facilities.

    The big play for bicycling is to get those health insurers to pay for Citibike memberships, since Motivate could document who rides and how much. And once people sign on, the goal of having the service be free would be a big motivator to actually use it. Motivate could probably send out alerts to push people to ride more if they might come up short.

  • (((Yosef Kessler)))

    This is obviously a great thing, but I’m not so sure giving Citi Bike exclusive rights over their operating zones is a good idea. Even with the expansion, Citi Bike may not reach all the neighborhoods in the outer boroughs that could benefit from bike share. Jump and Lime might not want to operate in the city if they are only allowed to be in the outlying areas of the city. This could mean that the neighborhoods that are still left out of this Citi Bike expansion would have to wait at least five years for bike share. I hope Citi Bikes monopoly doesn’t extend to scooters.

  • Robert Perris

    fyi, I just learned (by accident) that City employees who are in the Management Benefit Fund can have their City Bike fee paid for in the same way that gym memberships are reimbursed.

  • qrt145

    Is there a map showing where they are planning to expand?

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    This needs to get to Jax Heights! Right now the closest dock is 1.9 miles away and thanks to the subway madness there have been days where I have biked home from Manhattan instead of taking the train, docked there and walked.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Wow, that’s great!

    I just found out yesterday that Amtrak now allows a limited number of bikes on selected trains, without them being disassembled and boxed.

    Really, there aren’t a lot of positive trends in U.S. society in the wake of Generation Greed. This just in.

    “Average life expectancy for Americans fell again last year, to 78.6 years, as opioid abuse, suicide and diabetes picked up, though death by heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, stabilized.”

    “The data of the past few years mark a disturbing result not seen in the U.S., at least by some measures, since 1915 through 1918, which included World War I and a flu pandemic. Yet in most other developed nations, life expectancy has marched steadily higher for decades.”

    The ultimate statistic, the one you can’t really argue with.

    Ride a bike, get together with other people who ride bikes, extend and improve your life.

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    Not sure about the prefer thing? I mean a person getting around by bike is a person getting around by bike. I see people ride much less recklessly on Citibike than the average rider. They are heavy and don’t go fast. But safe too. I ride both my personal bike and Citibike.

  • Maggie

    I agree, I’m such a fan of the train&bike getaway. I’ve been waiting for years for Amtrak to accept bikes on the Adirondack. Whenever they do, it’ll be fantastic. For now I either take a folding bike for this line, or Amtrak accepts full-size bikes up as far as Schenectady on the Lake Shore Limited. There’s pretty good CDTA bus service with front bike racks between SDY and Saratoga Springs, although it’s hard to get from Albany to Saratoga on transit with a bike.

    Anyway, long digression! Thrilled for the Citibike announcement. Can’t wait to see this up and running.

  • I don’t ride differently except for more slowly. I used to have my own bike, but lugging it up and down 3 flights every time I wanted to go anywhere, worrying about parking, lugging the giant lock required to keep it safe everywhere, getting it fixed all of the time, having the lights and seat stolen… good riddance! Another plus of Citibike is using it for one way journeys. I love it for that. I’d say at least half of my rides are one-way. Very much looking forward to the expansion.

  • HamTech87

    I wish a few million of their commitment went to advocacy for PBLs. There are so many terrifying places for people on bicycles. Needs to change asap.

  • walks bikes drives

    Yeah, I am much faster on my own bike than on a city bike. Only the electric citibikes can compare in overall speed to my personal bike. I, too, prefer people riding their own bikes, just because they are faster and easier to ride around than the slow citibikes. But I much prefer a person on a citibike than any other form of mechanized transportation. My primary use of citibike is for one way rides as well. I almost never end up doing a round trip with citibike. I am also more apt to stop in a store or run an errand while on citibike than on my own bike.

  • Jacob

    “That number would be expected to grow dramatically if Citi Bike expands into commuting-distance neighborhoods”

    While bikeshare can and is certainly used for commutes to Midtwon, there are a lot of other regular use cases for bikeshare. Many commutes cut akwardly across the city, where taking transit is awkward and requires multiple transfers or slow/infrequent service. Bikeshare can knock out a transfer or two for a lot of trips. Many of these reguar trips have nothing to do with Midtown. With a larger service area and more bikes, the number of potential uses grows exponentially. When you add e-bikes, it get even bigger and is open to more people. It’s really important that the editor of Streetsblog understand this.

  • Jacob

    5 years

  • Jim Burke

    100% agree – I have often Citibiked from Chelsea only to have to dock it at Queens Plaza and take the 7 or the Q66 to Jackson heights both of which are overcrowded, unpleasant and slow. I would love to Citibike all the way!

  • NYCyclist

    I hope the venture capital continues to fund Lyft for the sake of LyftBikes. If it doesn’t, I’m afraid what will happen to it.

  • Knut Torkelson

    Coward de Blasio isn’t gonna take on parkers any more than he’s gonna take on the NYPD. Whatever the opposite of backbone is, he has that.

  • Knut Torkelson

    If anything, I find Citi Bikers slower and safer than the average cyclist. The idea that they’re somehow more dangerous or reckless seems completely overblown and not supported by any data.

  • Knut Torkelson

    I agree to some extent, but I think the city should kick in the funding to expand the program city wide. It’s been proven to be a massive success, and even if the outer boroughs require some level of subsidy, giving every NYer access to this is worth it.

  • Wilfried84

    From the press release, “The geographic boundaries of the expansion will be established in the coming months. Expansion will be accompanied by extensive community and elected official outreach to the selected areas.”

  • Wilfried84

    Statics show that bike share bikes, pretty much everywhere they exist, have lower injury rates than for bikes in general. I’d be willing to infer that low injury rates for riders also translates into lower rates for non-riders injured by bikes.

  • AnoNYC

    A few definates:

    -Bushwick (“City Council Member Rafael Espinal has called on the DOT to ensure Citi Bikes are added to Bushwick and other neighborhoods along the L corridor before the shutdown.”)
    -Rest of Bed-stuy
    -Mott Haven
    -Hunts Point
    -Melrose (if you serve Hunts Point, must cover Melrose)
    -Rest of Harlem
    -Washington Heights
    -Inwood (I can’t see them not covering the last bit of Manhattan Island).

    And considering double the coverage area, I would say maybe as far east in Queens as Corona, as far south on Brooklyn as Canarsie-Bay Ridge, and as far north in the Bronx as Norwood, maybe east to Castle Hill.

  • AnoNYC

    NYC sounds so much more amazing in like 2030.

  • kevd

    Maybe the most densely populated zips in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx can get CitiBike?
    11226, 11372 & 10453
    Flatbush, Jackson Heights & Morris Park

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    Wait??? 11372 is the most densely populated space in Queens?

    When the heck are we getting Citibike? YES!!

  • com63

    There should be a dock on every block in midtown manhattan.

  • Conscience_of_a_conservative

    i read this the current citibike program was falling apart. half the fleet not working? also think the writing is on the wall , between e-bikes getting introduced , changes planned in city rules and the acquisition by lyft and and an expansion of the territory lyft will phase out the push bikes and go all e-bike at some point

  • Larry Littlefield

    It would be nice if that were true.

    But adding up the fiscal numbers, checking the demographics, and extrapolating existing trends, biking may be the only thing that is much more amazing in 2030.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The components you want have to become profitable. That’s what has to happen. The rest will sink away.

  • Not talking about injuries. Talking mainly about decorum, sharing space in a civilized manner, etc.

  • kevd

    Well, for now anyway. I guess LIC and DT Brooklyn might catch up.

  • DoctorMemory

    I can’t see them not covering the last bit of Manhattan Island

    Based on the recent unpleasantness with the Dyckman Street bike lanes and pedestrian bulb-outs (RIP), I can easily see them not bothering to go north of 190th Street. Can you imagine the CB12 meeting when they try to propose taking away some parking spots to put a dock at Broadway & Dyckman or even Sherman & 207?

  • iSkyscraper

    I gave up my membership and am not coming back until they replace the dock at 56th St and 6th Ave that they removed when Trump was elected. There is simply not enough space to park in that part of midtown and I was forever searching for a dock space.

  • Vooch

    there should be no way fifth avenue from 57th to 45th should have private cars. It should be pedestrianized with 2 bus lanes to Protect our President !!!!!!

  • Vooch

    i always find citibiker ride rather genteelly. It’s a welcome pace

  • iSkyscraper

    100% agree. And while the CB will come around, eventually (thank you term limits) the uptown electeds have consistently shown themselves to be the true enemies of bike infrastructure. (Anyone remember the bike station on Dyckman that club owners pressured the electeds to get DOT to remove?)

    Besides, strictly as an engineering matter, Inwood is hilly to get to and way past the no-extra-fee commuting distance of Citibike for most destinations (workplaces, educational campuses, etc.) Maybe once the GWB riverfront bypass is in place, or once Ydanis’ fantasy office buildings that he just rezoned (read: destroyed) eastern Inwood for happen it could be revisited.

  • DoctorMemory

    Citi bikes might have some utility in Inwood even in the intervening centuries before Ydanis’ tech hub (lollll) comes together, but it would require fixing the Broadway and University Heights bridges to not be complete deathtraps and then connecting the Van Cortland Park bike lane to the west side greenway, and installing a protected land down Fordham Road from the bridge through to the Zoo and botanical gardens…

    Okay, actually the tech hub might happen sooner. 🙁

  • iSkyscraper

    Well, Broadway Bridge actually does start a 3-year reconstruction this spring (note to all inter-borough toll-dodging drivers – stay the #$!%!^ out of Inwood, please!) and apparently the rebuild will include bike lanes that continue on Broadway — I’m guessing spitj to about 218th St, where the sharrows route heads west to the Seaman Ave sharrows/lane.

    But the bigger point is that bike sharing needs good intermixing of arriving and departing traffic, unless you want to have zero bikes during the day or get so flooded you need a valet. Inwood lacks destinations, so any dock of 10 bikes would likely empty out at am rush and not come back until pm rush, much as happens in some outer parts of the network now. It’s supposed to be bikes usable all day for any number of reasons, not a one-way commuter subsidy.

  • DoctorMemory

    Hey, we have the Dyckman Farmhouse! Er… okay, point taken, although I think the same honestly applies to any neighborhood north of 150th except maybe whatever station ends up immediately adjacent to the Cloisters.

    Great news about the Broadway Bridge renovation though. I’ve taken my kid up to the VCP bike lane a few times now and it’s a really nice ride…once you dodge death multiple times in the process of getting there.

  • qrt145

    I’d say NYP Hospital is a major destination north of 150th St.