So How Equitable is the Citi Bike Expansion? Actually, It’s Not Bad!

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg recently biked to the Citi Bike expansion press conference (note that the bike lane was blocked by trucks). Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg recently biked to the Citi Bike expansion press conference (note that the bike lane was blocked by trucks). Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

“Equity will be central to everything we do in this expansion.”

That was Citi Bike’s Head of Micromobility Policy Caroline Samponaro, touting the expansion of the popular bike share system last week — a four-year rollout that will slowly expand Citi Bike to The Bronx, Upper Manhattan and more parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

But is equity truly central? Certainly, the Citi Bike rich will get richer — Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Bushwick, Jackson Heights and other well-off neighborhoods will get more or new access to the system — but the less-fortunate will also get a much bigger seat behind the handlebars.

New data obtained by Streetsblog show that by the time the system finally grows to 40,000 bikes by 2023, 67 percent of Housing Authority tenants will live within its footprint, up from 39 percent today.

Citi Bike expansion zone, 2019-2023.
Citi Bike expansion zone, 2019-2023.

And that’s far better than the city population overall. Currently, only 23 percent of New York City residents live in the Citi Bike footprint. By 2023, that number rises to 50.1 percent.

So at the end of this round of expansion, roughly half of all New York City residents will lack Citi Bike access — but only 33.3 percent of NYCHA residents will be outside the zone.

By one measure, however, the expansion isn’t perfectly equitable: The expansion is speeding up for the general population and slowing down for NYCHA residents. Currently, 1.96 million New Yorkers live in the Citi Bike zone — and 2.32 million more will get new service thanks to the expansion, a jump of 118 percent. But for NYCHA residents, the population of would-be members is currently 158,000. Expansion will bring the system to 111,000 more — a jump of 70 percent. Both trendlines are up, but the line for the general population has a steeper slope up.

Access is one thing — but membership is another. Even though close to 160,000 NYCHA residents have Citi Bike docks within walking distance, only 3,400 are currently taking advantage of the system’s so-called Reduced Fare Bike Share memberships, which cost $5/month for unlimited use of the system.

That’s $60 a year — a little less than a month of unlimited use of the subway and bus system under the city’s Fair Fares program for NYCHA residents. It’s a bargain — and it’s flexible (there’s no yearly commitment) — yet only 2.1 percent of NYCHA residents who live in the current Citi Bike footprint are taking advantage.

The ones who are taking advantage are using the system to the fullest; according to Citi Bike, reduced fare bike share riders take about twice the number of monthly trips as traditional members.

So the key is marketing. Also last week, the Lyft-owned Citi Bike announced it would spend $300,000 on grants to local community organizations to help “grow a culture of bike share in the new expansion areas.”

“Reduced fare bike share membership is life-changing, so we are making sure that we are reaching those residents to make this transportation system accessible and equitable,” Samponaro added.

Working through community organizations such as Bed-Stuy Restoration is a good move because it connects Citi Bike directly to potential customers.

“We show people how it works and we take them on a ride or get them a free helmet — it makes a big difference in raising the comfort level,” said Tracey Capers, chief program officer with Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration. “As Citi Bike is normalized, people get to see other people like them on bikes. And then we market it more. We had a campaign called ‘Biking Your Way to a Bigger Bank Account,’ for example.

“Citi Bike’s expansion is going to make a big difference,” she added.

 

  • GuestBx

    It’s a nice increase but how about the city let Jump and others fill in the rest?

  • Amazing successful story.
    Thanks!!

  • Jeff

    The geography aspect isn’t particularly interesting to me–in a normal, capitalist city, for better or for worse, the wealthy tend to live in the more central, more dense areas, and the rollout of a bikeshare system does and should prioritize more central, more dense areas.

    Removing barriers to access, however, is where the equity part gets interesting. Right now, signing up for CitiBike is very much a Thing–you have to provide a credit card to serve as a deposit and what have you. If we can get to a place where the process for checking out and paying for a CitiBike is no different than taking the bus (just swiping a MetroCard, or any OMNY-compatible payment method), then I think we’ll start to see the inequities really start to melt away.

  • BronxEE2000

    I hope those folks in the Bronx get ready for the gentrification that’s going to come with CItiBike.

  • Joel Epstein

    Does Citibike plan to release an RFP/RFA seeking qualified outreach partners? Anyone know?

  • com63

    They really need to get more low income people on these bikes. Should pull out all the stops to make it happen.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Repeating this doesn’t make it any more true.

  • BronxEE2000

    Something tells me you’re not at risk of being priced out of your neighborhood.

  • AMH

    CitiBike doesn’t require a deposit anymore, but you still need a credit or debit card.

    https://help.citibikenyc.com/hc/en-us/articles/360002745832-Does-Citi-Bike-charge-a-security-deposit-to-rent-a-bike-

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It’s got nothing to do with cycling or bike share.

  • GuestBx

    Bicycle share does not cause gentrification, what are you going on about?

    The communities in the South Bronx are becoming more expensive because other areas as close to the Manhattan CBD outprice it. The South Bronx is also rich in mass transportation options.

    The South Bronx has been the last choice for most people because they associate it with urban decay and social problems, but that stereotype has been eroding. People of higher incomes have been moving into or investing in the area.

  • Larry Littlefield

    They should use the direct selling method. Contact the people in housing projects who are actually using the service.

    And tell them they get a free month for every person they get to sign up, ride three times a week, and stick with it for a year.

    Lots of businesses do it. “Discounts if you recommend to a friend,” that sort of thing.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “In a normal, capitalist city, for better or for worse, the wealthy tend to live in the more central, more dense areas.”

    That has definitely, absolutely, NOT been the case in most cities for centuries, especially in this one. The poor chased the rich from the tip of Lower Manhattan through Midtown to the Upper Sides and thence to the suburbs, by crowding in and increasing density, before zoning stopped them.

    The idea that the rich occupy the central locations, as seems to be increasingly the case for the past 40 years, is new.

  • cjstephens

    You can lead a horse to water…

  • cjstephens

    How dare Streetsblog publish a feel-good story based on a careful analysis of the data! Don’t you know your readers would much prefer being told that the people in charge a just a bunch of racists? Don’t confuse us with, you know, facts! In all seriousness, though, good for you for re-evaluating the race-baiting baloney recently put out by ex-ACORN “NY Communities for Change”.

  • qrt145

    Why the “ride three times a week” requirement? As long as they are paying (even at a steep discount), a sale is a sale.

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