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Mayor Has No Citi Bike Expansion Plan Despite Tweet Offering Citi Bike Expansion

12:01 AM EDT on April 19, 2020

Citi Bike in Harlem. Photo: Twitter/@YoungDoz

A promise on Twitter is an empty promise.

On Wednesday, after the mayor's office tweeted, "If a hospital needs a new @citibikenyc dock, they’ll get one! Whatever our tireless workers need to keep saving lives and get to work," it was fair to ask if the city would finally chip in to expand the system that so many hospital employees are relying on.

But the mayor's office immediately threw cold water on the mayor's office's tweet when we asked when hospitals outside of Citi Bike's limited service area would get docks. In fact, a spokesman for the mayor confirmed that no public money would be spent on this vital form of public transportation (in good times, but especially during the virus crisis).

"We’re grateful to Citi Bike and the DOT for this their help on this station, and we’ll continue working with them and other communities to further expand service going forward," said Mitch Schwartz.

The City Hall tweet was sent to promote the new Citi Bike dock just outside Columbia University's Irving Medical Center in Washington Heights, which was installed this week to give the hospital's essential employees a new option to get to work. Citi Bike is scheduled to expand into Washington Heights, Inwood and the south Bronx in 2020, so the new dock at West 169th Street and Fort Washington Avenue will soon fit into the system as a whole.

But the dock is currently 2.5 miles away from the closest dock in Manhattan — even though that dock is further out from Citi Bike borders than new docks would be at several hospitals in Queens and Brooklyn.

The mayor's reticence to embrace even his own tweet about expanding bike share doesn't extend to elected officials in the city though, who embraced the expansion for hospitals in districts just outside Citi Bike's service area. State Senator Jessica Ramos indicated her support for bringing Citi Bike to Elmhurst Hospital, 1.8 miles from the closest Citi Bike dock, by tweeting an adorable cat GIF flashing "GIMME gimme."

City Council Member Danny Dromm, whose district includes Elmhurst Hospital, also told Streetsblog that he supports bringing the Lyft-owned Citi Bike to Elmhurst. Dromm even suggested locations for the docks: on Broadway and/or on 41st Avenue.

A quintuplet of hospitals in Brooklyn are also just outside the very edges of the Citi Bike service area, to the same degree that Irving Medical is: NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn is 3.1 miles from the Park Slope Citi Bike border and just one mile from a Sunset Park dock, Maimonides Medical Center is 2.8 miles from Park Slope docks and 1.6 miles from the Sunset Park dock, and Kingsbridge Jewish Medical Center is 1.5 miles from the Citi Bike border in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Kings County Hospital Center/SUNY Downstate Medical Center is just 1.1 miles from the Citi Bike border in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who represents a district that contains three of those hospitals and borders a fourth, forcefully demanded a Citi Bike expansion to them.

"We know that black and brown communities are the last to get access to public resources, and our bike share system is no exception," said Myrie. "As our communities are hit hardest by this crisis and our healthcare workers continue to put their lives on the line, there should be little question as to where to allow easier modes of transit. Three entire hospitals in my district are completely outside of Citi Bike's service area — let's start there."

The failure of the mayor to put up some money to expand Citi Bike in a crisis follows the city's decision — which pre-dates Mayor de Blasio — to not pay for Citi Bike docks or bikes, preferring this "public-private partnership" to be funded entirely by the "private" part: Lyft.

As a result, Citi Bike has been very slow to expand its contiguous zone beyond its initial core in Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn. The service has expanded, and now has more than 150,000 annual members, but is only now getting to upper Manhattan and The Bronx.

Meanwhile, Revel, the electric scooter company, met the COVID-19 by putting up the company's money to dramatically expand its footprint, adding a large swath of Manhattan to its western Queens and Brownstone Brooklyn zone. Revel also added drop-off and pick-up areas near many hospitals. The company also offered free 30-day memberships to health care workers (Citi Bike did the same, though also without city funding).

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