Monday Morning was Really Bad for Citi Bike

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

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Just days after Citi Bike announced a massive expansion and maintenance effort, the system frustrated Lower Manhattan users with a breakdown on Monday morning.

Many users posted their frustrations to social media, with pictures of completely full docks in a large swath of downtown. A friend of Streetsblog said that he couldn’t find a single dock within a one-mile radius of his office at around 10 a.m.

“My bike is in the shop, so I took Citibike to work from the dentist and ended up walking about a mile to my office because of massive dockblock everywhere Lower Manhattan,” the regular Citi Bike user told Streetsblog. “WTF Motivate. Unfortunately, this is typical.”

Screenshots taken by the user (below) tell the whole story:

This composite screen shot shows that there were no places to put a Citi Bike at around 10 a.m. Monday in Lower Manhattan. Photo: John Kaehny
This composite screen shot shows that there were no places to put a Citi Bike at around 10 a.m. Monday in Lower Manhattan.

The red-tipped dock logo means that there was not a single place to put a Citi Bike. The area comprises a massive zone bounded by Washington Square Park to the north, Lafayette Street to the east, Wall Street to the south and the West Side Greenway to the west.

The area typically has dock space for hundreds of bikes. The problem was not fully solved by 2:30 p.m., when Streetsblog’s review of the Citi Bike map revealed that many the same docks were still full of bikes, though some had one or two slots.

Citi Bike admitted that Monday was a particularly challenging day for the nation’s largest bike share system. But a source at the company said the Lyft-owned bike company had suffered a perfect storm: unseasonably warm morning temperatures led to high ridership on a Monday, which because of odd weekend patterns, are always tricky for Citi Bike, as bikes end up in unpredictable areas.

The problems also came as a number of valet stations have been closed for the winter.

There were plenty of complaints:

@CitiBikeNYC stop over filling the stations!!!!! Another morning disaster and late again!,” a user named Rose tweeted at the company.

“Zero docks available within a massive radius,” added user Amber. “Crowd of 10 waiting for docks on 6th and canal which normally has a valet. major fail this am.”

Another Citi Bike rider described the system as “nearly useless,” and posted a similar screen shot.

Many readers demanded that late fees be waived. The company’s Twitter feed directed such users to email customerservice@citibikenyc.com.

Monday’s crisis comes just three days after Lyft officials announced a large expansion of the system, which will grow to nearly 40,000 bikes from the current 12,000, and double its coverage of the city from the current 30 square miles in mostly Manhattan and Brooklyn to serve far more neighborhoods. That announcement came with the promise that many of the new bikes would be pedal-assist electric bikes — and that Lyft would, by the end of February, fully repair the existing fleet, which suffered a horrific service crisis this fall that idled almost half the fleet for weeks.

The company’s promises and explanation of Monday’s disaster would not likely satisfy our original tipster.

“Enough with the ebikes (which are never charged),” he told Streetsblog. “Get the basics ops working.”

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  • Daisy’s World

    A lot of the concern about safety is really concern about nuisance,” White told Curbed after the press conference. “No one likes being buzzed by an e-bike or a scooter on the sidewalk; it can startle people. But that’s a very different thing than a safety crisis. A safety crisis is hundreds of people being killed by motor vehicles every year.” White predicted that the legitimization of e-scooters and e-bikes would work similarly to the introduction of Citi Bike, which helped shift the perception of cycling as more of a legitimate transportation option in New York. Asked by Curbed if the council would commit to an aggressive expansion of bike infrastructure, in order to make room for e-scooters and keep people off the sidewalk, Rodriguez praised the DOT’s goal of adding 25 miles of protected bike lanes per year, but also said he’d like the see the city double that goal in next year’s budget. And Cabrera suggested that the presence of e-scooter and e-bikes will lead to a demand for more places to safely ride them. http://www.daisylimo.com/car-service.html

  • Two solutions.

    1 – more docks.

    2 – every bike should have a built in lock to let you end your trip adjacent to a full station. You only have to go as far as Hoboken to see how that works.

  • The value of dockless is made apparent…

  • Daphna

    Good ideas. Re-balancing would not be such a challenge for Citibike it they had more docks. As big as the docks are, they are obviously not big enough and thus require the valet stations and massive rebalancing. But it takes political will to allocate more space for docks, so that is a political problem more so than a bikeshare company problem. Citibike should probably plan to keep those valet stations open through the winter.

  • Daphna

    With dockless you still need a place to put the bike, even without a dock, and the political will to allocate space for bike storage is often lacking. Bikeshare in NYC needs to operate on a huge scale. It would not just be a dockless bike or two per block — it could conceivably be 50 dockless bikes on a block, so there has to be a place for them. If 20-40′ of curbside space per block normally allocated to car storage were turned into bike corals, that might be a great way to handle dockless bikes.

  • It’s absolutely a great way to handle bikes and is exactly what needs to be done.

  • William Lawson

    Lyft has its work cut out. The CitiBike fleet and infrastructure are getting very long in the tooth. Increasingly, I’m running blocks to get to one last bike in a dock only to find that it’s stuck and cannot be removed. I’m finding more and more docks that I cannot dock into, and more and more docks where I have to go through that ridiculous series of crunching and grinding and red lights before it finally lets me have the damn thing.

    And then of course there’s the bikes themselves. I once complained to a CitiBike customer service rep that more and more of the bikes I take are in poor condition. Brakes are spongy, gears badly calibrated, seat post problematic, loose rattly baskets, that sort of thing. She responded by blaming customers for not flagging problem bikes soon enough. My response to that was that any system which relies on members of the public to make a voluntary effort, regardless of how trivial, was obviously doomed to fail and that it was a terrible system. The people riding the bikes don’t really care about the repair status of the bike they’ve just riden – there’s no incentive (like an hourly wage) for them to remember to hit that repair button. It’s not that they’re lazy, it’s that it’s such a low-priority act for them that they are liable to forget as soon as they get off the bike. She didn’t have an answer for that. There isn’t one really, because the proof is clearly in the pudding.

  • qrt145

    I still prefer docked. One reason is just because if forces the city to allocate the space to park the bikes. But also because I’d rather not have to hunt for bikes based on a vague location. GPS locations in NYC are often off by a block. And that’s without getting into the abuse that dockless systems invite, such as parking a bike indoors to keep it for yourself.

  • Hmm. Maintaining even a single-user, privately owned bike is a challenge it seems. Obviously a shared bike that gets used all day, everyday is going to present its own myriad additional challenges. I still support the idea of Citibike but I am amused to hear about all these problems. I mean yeah it’s nice to be able to leave all that shit in the care of Citibike’s magical bike maintenance gnomes, but you can’t forget what a Sisyphean task these guys face. As William Lawson points out, it takes more than wrenches to fix bikes. How can a bike be repaired if nobody knows or cares about it? All machines, especially bikes, need maintenance and let’s face it, a bit of TLC (tender loving care, not taxi and limo commission) to run well.

  • Komanoff

    A positive word for CitiBike: After lacerating my hand in a kitchen mishap Sunday evening — a nasty wound requiring stitches in the ER — I opted to Citibike this morning on the notion that the cushiony grip would be easier on my gnarly hand. I had no trouble grabbing a bike from the station in front of my apt (Duane St) or docking it (Hanover Square). A short ride, to be sure, but it didn’t stress my hand. It lifted my spirits and zipped by commute. Thank you, Citibike!

  • AMH

    A tip for when the dock is grinding and won’t release the bike: push the bike into the dock and it will help to release it.

  • Daisy’s World

    Six months later, after extensive advocacy by labor and cycling groups, the city legalized some types of “pedal-assist” e-bikes, which have electric motors that provide a modest amount of assistance to a pedaling rider. But throttle-controlled e-bikes, which are the ones used by most food delivery workers who rely on them, remained forbidden. Now, e-bikes of all types appear set for legalization. Last month, New York City Council proposed a set of bills that would introduce pilot programs for e-scooters such as Bird and Lime and legalize throttle e-bikes. Both such measures are clearly long overdue. But there is still a danger in assuming dockless e-bikes or e-scooters can be simply inserted into the city, although it’s not about the vehicles themselves. Without a coherent vision for what New York City streets ought to look like, or of how to get from here to there, these “little vehicles” can’t operate safely. And our transportation landscape will just keep suffering.
    Just look at how the city typically protects cyclists: The Department of Transportation installs a single line of paint on the ground and calls it a bike lane. Protected bike lanes are far too rare. Since 2015, the city has installed 86 miles of what it calls “protected” bike lanes, although many of those miles do not in fact feature physical separation from traffic. Further, those projects only get expedited—meaning, installed within six months at best—when someone is killed. http://www.daisylimo.com/car-service.html

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