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Good Luck Docking Your Citi Bike In Lower Manhattan

Many frustrated commuters to Lower Manhattan opted to simply abandon their Citi Bikes undocked due to the lack of open spots in the area.

Photo: Sophia Lebowitz|

Citi Bike rider checks his phone for open docks in Lower Manhattan.

Citi Bike commuters to Lower Manhattan were shit out of dock on Tuesday.

Frustrated Citi Bike riders found themselves circling Lower Manhattan in search of docks on Tuesday — and not for the first time, they said.

A snapshot of Citi Bike parking availability on Tuesday morning.Screenshot: David Meyer

Commuters who spoke to Streetsblog on Tuesday said they went to as many as five stations before they found a place to park. A review of dock availability around 10:30 a.m. showed just five open spots in all of Manhattan south of Houston Street and east of Bowery. Many riders opted to simply abandon their bikes undocked due to the lack of open spots.

At the Foley Square station near former President Donald Trump's ongoing criminal trial, all the slots were occupied. One white e-bike haphazardly leaned against the side of the station.

“I had to abandon my bike earlier,” said Ross Raggio, a lawyer who was headed into court earlier in the morning. Raggio, who commutes to Lower Manhattan from the West Village most days for work, said that the area is notorious for its low concentration of open docks.

"This was especially bad," he told Streetsblog.

Ross Raggio, a Citi Bike user, grabs a bike to head home after having to abandon one on his way to court. Photo: Sophia Lebowitz

Citi Bike employs "rebalancers" and drivers to move bikes around the city to meet the varying demand for parking and bikes. That system appeared to have failed on Tuesday — something bike-share operator Lyft attributed to Monday's weather, though regular riders said they frequently struggled to find open docks to end their ride.

“We understand the frustration and are working on this," Lyft spokesman Jordan Levine posted in response to complaints on Twitter. "The unusually warm weather followed by commute hour rain left a large imbalance downtown.

"We're sending extra vans to clear bikes until it's resolved and we're adding extra valets starting next week," Levine added.

A Citi Bike leans, abandoned, at the Foley Square station. Photo: Sophia Lebowitz

Streetsblog spoke to Raggio as he picked up a new bike to head home, opening a coveted spot. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, desparate Citi Bike riders began to roll up to the station hoping to snag the single open spot.

“I was cursing at all of the stations,” said Rob Hunt, the lucky rider who snagged the open spot from Raggio. 

Hunt commutes from Greenpoint to Lower Manhattan most days for work. The area, especially Tribeca, is a nightmare for docking bikes, he said.

“If you don’t get there before ten, good luck,” said Hunt, who also tried multiple stations on Tuesday before finally landing his spot. 

Rob Hunt, a Citi Bike member since the beginning, docks his bike. Photo: Sophia Lebowitz

Another Citi Biker, Samuel Dan, approached the Foley Square station just after Hunt docked his bike. Dan, noticeably frustrated, stated that he had already tried four other stations before his latest setback. He always has issues finding space in the area, he said.

Citi Bike has multiple strategies for rebalancing bikes and open docks, including valets at heavily trafficked stations, drivers to move bikes between full and empty stations and the Bike Angels program, which rewards Citi Bike members who rent bikes from full stations or return bikes to empty ones.

Lyft called Tuesday's chaos an "extreme example" of its difficulty keeping Lower Manhattan and the Financial District balanced with open docks and bikes. Around 15 percent of stations in the area fill up by the middle of the day — and then empty out as the evening commute gets underway, the company said.

Monday's sunny morning weather followed by "some rain" in the evening meant many bikes that had come into the neighborhood in the morning never left, according to Levine, the company spokesman.

"This morning we recognized that some riders had a difficult time finding parking in FiDi and began quickly rerouting vans to clear bikes from full stations, resolving an extreme anomaly in ridership patterns," Levine said in a statement.

"As we move into peak ridership during the summer months, we’re using all of the tools at our disposal to proactively ensure that the system stays consistently balanced during commute hours."

Citi Bike has just one active valet station in Lower Manhattan, at North Moore Street and Greenwich Street. Lyft removed three other Lower Manhattan valet stations recently due to construction or utility work, according to recent service updates.

As the city gears up to start enacting congestion pricing on June 30, Citi Bike can expect more riders looking to avoid paying to drive in, Transportation Alternatives Senior Director of Policy and Research Philip Miatkowski pointed out in a tweet

"What’s the plan for Congestion Pricing?" Miatkowski asked. "Is DOT working with Citi Bike? Will there be valet stations?"

Lyft is staffing up for the summer across the city, Levine said, and will staff up further if demand grows.

As of noon, the vast majority of Citi Bike stations in Lower Manhattan still lacked open spots for docking.

"I've gone to four different stations before this one" said Arik Oganesian, who docked his bike at Franklin Street at West Broadway.

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