Citi Bike Ridership Hits New Record — So When Will the City Subsidize This Vital Form of Transit?

Big wheels keep on turning, big blue bikes keep on rolling. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Big wheels keep on turning, big blue bikes keep on rolling. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Citi Bike just keeps rolling.

The annual Mayor’s Management Report, which will be posted later today, shows that more people used the big blue bikes last year than ever before. According to the mayor’s office, 19,106,000 Citi Bike rides were taken between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, up from 17,176,000 rides taken in the same period last year. That’s an 11-percent increase.

It’s yet another record for Citi Bike, coming just weeks after the bike share system hit a record daily ridership of 91,529 trips on Sept. 5, 2019.

“Six years ago, nobody could have predicted Citi Bike riders would pedal almost 100,000 rides in a single day, but that’s where we are after a record-breaking summer: more than 2.3 million rides this August alone and daily ridership records achieved nearly 10 separate times,” Caroline Samponaro, the head of Micromobility Policy at Lyft, said in a statement. “These milestones are not only a testament to our passionate riders, but also our effective public-private partnership with NYC DOT since day one.”

The city’s “public-private partnership” with Lyft has achieved success that even the most optimistic bike share booster could not have fully predicted in the heady days of Citi Bike fearmongering. But that success still carries a huge “What if?” — namely, what if city government (the “public” in this partnership) put more, or even any, money into it, as it does with every single other transit option?

Streetsblog has asked the mayor repeatedly about this, but he has declined to add public money into the mix (even as he has spent $673 million of public money on the less-used NYC Ferry). He has even declined to stop charging Citi Bike for the curbside spaces its docks occupy.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has herself said that with a subsidy of between $400 and $500 million, she could speed up Citi Bike’s expansion into pieces of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. As it stands, Citi Bike’s expansion into those areas won’t be finished until 2023. A citywide Citi Bike? It’s not on the current mayor’s agenda.

Instead, de Blasio spoke earlier this month about discouraging Citi Bike use by perhaps requiring helmets, which has a well-documented deterrent effect on cycling.

In reality, the mayor’s management report shows that people want to use Citi Bike more.

In a statement celebrating the milestone, Trottenberg only glancingly referenced the public-private partnership, and focused entirely on the “private” half.

“Citi Bike’s record high ridership, as reported today in the Mayor’s Management Report, is yet another indicator just how much people are embracing cycling as a sustainable way of moving around New York City,” Trottenberg said. “As we undertake the Mayor’s Green Wave plan for safer cycling as well as double the Citi Bike service area as part of a major expansion in the coming years, we thank our partners at Lyft for helping us to manage this incredible growth.”

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