Cycling in the City: Citi Bike on the Rise; Bridge Crossings Falling

Meanwhile, the number of people biking over the East River bridges saw its most precipitous decline yet.

People (including former Motivate CEO Jay Walder, far right, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams behind him) are using Citi Bike in increasing numbers, despite a repair crisis last fall and an e-bike breakdown this year. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
People (including former Motivate CEO Jay Walder, far right, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams behind him) are using Citi Bike in increasing numbers, despite a repair crisis last fall and an e-bike breakdown this year. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Here’s one possible reason your Citi Bike station is constantly out of bikes: people are riding them.

Citi Bike’s daily ridership increased by 7.8 percent last year, according to DOT’s just-released “Cycling in the City” report [PDF] — an increase that came even though Citi Bike did not expand its coverage footprint and the system experienced a two-month repair crisis that reduced the fleet almost in half.

The chart below shows that Citi Bike ridership was up in almost every month last year:

Image: NYC DOT
Image: NYC DOT

The positive Citi Bike numbers match other growth, according to the DOT report. The number of people biking across 50th Street — a sample street in the DOT study — increased by 8.2 percent. Cycling across 86th Street was up 10 percent.

Such increases come as census data finally shows increases in the number of daily bike commuters. The feds had said the bike-to-work movement was largely stagnant between 2015 and 2016, but it jumped by 6.5 percent in 2017, the last statistical year available.

But some cycling hills may be too steep to climb.

The DOT report said that number of daily bike trips over the four East River bridges dropped 6 percent last year, continuing a downward trend that began in 2017 after years of positive momentum. Bridge-crossings were down on all four East River bridges, with notoriously cycling-unfriendly Brooklyn Bridge dropping the least, oddly.

Bike New York Communications Director Jon Orcutt, a former city DOT official, pointed to two possible reasons for the discrepancy between the growth of Citi Bike and the drop in East River bridge crossings. As the waterfront communities of North Brooklyn and western Queens get older and wealthier, for example, the bike commuting demographic has moved further and further from Manhattan.

Additionally, last year was the city’s fourth rainiest year on record, which Orcutt suggested may have discouraged people from taking their bike in and out of Manhattan.

“Commuting into Manhattan is more of an all-day commitment that people may not make if the weather looks or is forecast to be bad,” he told Streetsblog.

Citi Bike trips, on the other hand, are a “moment-to-moment” decision and typically shorter, making them a better bet in bad weather.

For Citi Bike, the numbers are likely to continue rising. In November, Lyft announced that it would triple the number of Citi Bikes and double the size of the network over the next five years. The company says it will soon reveal the first set of expansion neighborhoods.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Last year was the city’s fourth rainiest year on record, which Orcutt suggested may have discouraged people from taking their bike in and out of Manhattan.”

    The weather and some other circumstances certainly reduced my biking last year. And I put on weight as a result. The last few weeks have been pretty bad too. I don’t mind getting rained on on the way home, but I’d rather not on my way in.

  • Jim Burke

    If Citi Bike was in more Queens neighborhoods and it was outside your door and you could hop on and ride to Manhattan. But you can’t. You have to travel to the foot of the Queensborough bridge to get one in LIC or Astoria or you could stay on the subway for one additional stop to Manhattan and take a Citi Bike on the other side and not have to cross the bridge.

    I would imagine that when CIti Bike is expanded into more neighborhoods and the ped assist are back we will see a large uptick. It’s just a shame that the expansion isn’t happening now at the beginning of the height of the bike season.

    Also imagine if we finished QUeens Blvd, had dedicated room on the QBB, safe bike parking, and that the “Big Jump” actually resulted in safer, direct protected lanes in Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst as promised. Progress on these fronts are maddeningly slow.

  • r

    Better infrastructure would make up for the weather, population changes, etc. The problem is that so much of our infrastructure is incomplete or in a state of disrepair that even seasoned cyclists will stay home. DOT is failing left and right to do what’s right and make a complete network that would more than compensate for a year of bad weather. They have rain and wind in other cities where cycling just works.

  • crazytrainmatt

    It’s pretty obvious infrastructure and enforcement are the limitation. Is there a single route that crosses 50th St east of the Hudson you would you be willing to send your wife or kids on? During rush hour?

    Cycling in NYC works for some people, on some routes, at some times. Getting DOT to think in terms of a network rather than projects could change this in short order.

  • Vooch

    We should celebrate that staggering mind blowing number of Citibike trips. Its only been a few short years and we might just see 100,000 trip days this season.

    Revisit Colbert’s send up of Citibike haters back when program started, never gets old

    https://crooksandliars.com/heather/colbert-skewers-wsjs-rabinowitz-rant-again

  • HamTech87

    Exactly. Even the wonderful Amsterdam Avenue PBL was blocked just above 100th Street yesterday, forcing people on bikes to not only enter traffic, but to the middle lane due to a double-parked UPS truck (which had open spaces it could have used).

  • It’s more than just getting DOT to think in terms of a network, which I think they do for the most part. (They’ve spent a fair amount of effort improving bridge connections and crosstown routes in the past year or two, which is great!) It’s getting them to think beyond the “Strong and Fearless” and “Enthused and Confident” cyclists who are the only people who are going to use routes marked with sharrows, bike lanes between parked cars and moving traffic, or “protected” bike lanes that aren’t actually protected by anything.

    Every street design and plan needs to begin with a question: “Who is this plan for?” If it’s for only those two groups of people, who are probably out there riding anyway, then it’s not a plan. We need what Vancouver calls “AAA” infrastructure: All Ages and Abilities. Then we’ll know we’re getting somewhere.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I can only tell you my experience. I biked to work somewhat less last year, and bad weather was one of the reasons. The infrastructure was not.

    Once someone has started getting around by bike, there aren’t many things that can make them stop. Better infrastructure gets people in, but disrepair won’t make them stop.

  • The way we actually count commuting is flawed, but unless we had more money and people working I guess it is what we get.

    Anecdotally, all you have to do is be out on a nice day between April and November and it is obvious the numbers are far, far higher than anything we count.

  • AMH

    That photo! Is it legal to bike in Boro Hall Park? Even though Adams and his cadre drive cars all over that plaza, I’d bet NYPD would gleefully confiscate your bike if you dared to ride across it.

  • Joe R.

    Perhaps the increase in ticketing of cyclists has something to do with it? No matter how great the infrastructure, people aren’t going to want to ride if they’ll get ticketed for petty infractions.

  • Wilfried84

    The question on the Census survey is, “How did this person usually get to work last week?”, with instructions that if you used more that one mode, choose the one you used for most of the difference. So, if you rode a bike two days out of five, or used a bike for the first or last mile of a multi-modal commute, you would choose something else, and the biking doesn’t count. The Census counts the number of people who rode a bike as their primary mode of commuting in a week, not how many people rode a bike to work, or how much bikes were used.

  • thomas040

    All Ages and Abilities indeed. Like sidewalks. Imagine some sidewalks only being painted in….. in the middle of an other wise busy road. Would it be used a lot, or would most just stay home? I think I know the answer.

  • thomas040

    The rain basically makes 50% of the bike lanes (the middle of the road ones) completely unusable. Driver’s can’t see the lines very clearly when it rains, and the hazards of biking seems to go up tenfold.

    If things were EVENLY paved, blocked off safely with absolutely no possibility of cars in the lanes, people would use bike lanes in the rain as much as people use side walks in the rain.

  • Daphna

    The 1′ or 1.5′ of curbside space in bike lanes should not be counted as a usable part of the bike lane. It is a gutter and is filled with debris and with water on rainy days. The original design that was installed on 8th and 9th Avenue in the very first sections of protected bike lanes did not count the 1.5′ of curbside space as part of the lane; it was a better, more robust design – but it was scaled back for all future protected bike lane installations.

  • Daphna

    This protected bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue needs more islands. I have been wondering ever since it was installed why it was installed with so many fewer islands that the normal design of protected bike lanes.

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