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Wednesday’s Headlines: Citi Bike Mystery Edition

12:03 AM EDT on May 31, 2023

Our deputy editor was disappointed on Tuesday morning to find the one electric Citi Bike available near his apartment was, in fact, vandalized and unavailable for use.

That's right — as you can see in the above photo, the bike had its QR code and PIN numbers keyed out, making it impossible to rent or ride without one of the rare Citi Bike key fobs.

Other Citi Bike users chimed in on Twitter to say that they had also seen vandalized QR quotes and identification numbers on Citi Bikes in recent weeks. One Redditor suggested, without evidence, that the culprits are teens hoping to "reserve" the bikes for personal use by making it impossible for anyone else to rent them. We've asked the NYPD if it has more information.

One thing is certain: Citi Bike's e-bikes are in high demand — with many more trips than "classic" non-electric bikes — and low supply, thanks in part to city rules that limit the bike-share fleet to 20 percent electric.

The dynamics of that limited supply were on full display in this month's "Citi Bike Karen" saga, in which a white hospital nurse got into a shouting match with a group of black teens over who would get to rent an e-bike.

The clip of the incident went viral and sparked a reputational war-of-words between the nurse, who is pregnant, and the families of the young men. But given the limited supply, it's hardly surprising that anyone who relies on the e-bikes — for commuting, recreation, or anything else — would go to extra lengths to make the system work for them.

In fact, according to a recent interview with one of the teens and his family, the group of boys had stopped and docked their bikes to keep their rides under 45 minutes and avoid paying extra fees. They were waiting around hoping to take the same bikes back home to the Bronx.

“Regular Citi Bike riders do this,” the boy's older sister explained to NewsOne. “The price goes up after 45 minutes for everyone, so people routinely ride their bikes, dock their bikes, ride their bikes, and dock their bikes again.”

In other news:

  • You probably missed Manhattanhenge last night. (NY PostGothamist)
  • City officials were in Albany on Tuesday to push "Sammy's Law" and other Adams administration priorities. (NY Post)
  • Gothamist previewed an upcoming (official) oral history of Citi Bike.
  • These bikes at the Taylor Swift concert over the weekend could be our movement's big break. (Reddit)
  • WPIX checks in on DOT's proposed McGuinness Boulevard bike lanes, which Streetsblog has (obviously) also covered.
  • How Amtrak's contractor for new Acela trains failed to prepare for the obvious. (WSJ)
  • Truck carrying crane destroys Queens power lines. (CBS New York)
  • Did you see that even Ford's CEO thinks e-truck batteries are too big? (The Verge)
  • Meet the car dealers standing in the way of the electric car revolution. (Slate)
  • "Dave Colon" won the DOT name-a-bike competition twice and it's possible he'll have to win it a third time. It's possible. (Just kidding; the bike will official be named Cargi B.) (NYC DOT via Twitter)

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