Bloomberg Was on Fire at Yesterday’s Bike-Share Presser

Photo: Dmitry Gudkov

Yesterday’s Citi Bike announcement was maybe the last occasion to see Michael Bloomberg answer a whole string of bike-related questions from the NYC press corps in one sitting. The mayor has a reputation for jousting with reporters at these events, sometimes more crankily than others. Yesterday he was combative but clearly enjoying himself. He had solid responses for just about all the questions that came at him.

Here are some highlights from the Q&A with Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. In most cases the reporters weren’t clearly audible from my vantage point, so the questions are paraphrased.

The first question was about dedicating officers to ticketing Citi Bike users.

Michael R. Bloomberg: Everyone’s going to be more aware of this. I’m sure there will be people who will, just like they are today, take their bicycles and do things that break the law. This will shock you but there are even people in automobiles who do the same thing. When you take a look at the number of people killed in automobiles, it sort of dwarfs everything put together on the road. I’m sure there’ll be some teething pains, there will be some people who need a wake-up call, and we’ll try to do it to the best extent we can.

Next question was about maintaining the system and referred to the Citi Bike that was stolen Sunday evening while crews were setting up stations.

Janette Sadik-Khan: It was taken off the truck as it was being loaded, not from the station itself.

MRB: I’m sure that’s the first bicycle that’s been stolen in this city. So I’m sure we’ll go back and look at your coverage, and you’ve been covering every one of those, is that correct? And it was recovered, incidentally. And it wasn’t ours, it was the private sector’s, not government property. Somehow or other you can make a bad story out of that, I don’t know, but we’ll pay attention, and it will be fascinating to see how clever you are.

Question: Will this compete with transit and bike stores?

JSK: We look at this as a real complement to the MTA system, to fill in the gaps. And there are times when it’s just quicker to get across town in particular. We have the largest bus fleet in North America and the slowest bus speeds, so this a convenient, fast, affordable way to get around town.

MRB: Also you’ve gotta remember that a lot of people own bicycles and rent them to go for long periods of time. This is really more designed for getting from Place A to Place B in 30 minutes kind of thing. Some of the bicycle stores that are worried about their business, I think in fact if they think about it, they will sell an awful lot of helmets, that’s profitable, and the more people that ride the more people think about riding, and there’s no reason to think that business will go down. I think history shows it will go up.

Fox 5: What’s your response to people who say the stations are blocking the doorway to my building?

MRB: Yes, it is a touch, but remember before that there were automobiles chock-a-block, bumper-to-bumper blocking the view, where you couldn’t get through them. This is a lot easier to get through than that. We have a busy city, and you can’t walk in any one place directly without somebody and having to go around that.

Question: How does Citi Bike stack up to other systems?

JSK: We spent a lot of time building out the bike network. So we had the most extensive cycling infrastruture in place before the launch. So that took some time to get done. We feel very strongly that it’s a key solution for a world-class city. That’s why you’re seeing it in Paris and London and Washington and Boston and Barcelona…

The other piece that we did is we took a page out of a couple of different systems. So we borrowed the sponsorship model from London and then we married it to the solar-powered wireless systems in the United States. So we think we’ve got the best of both systems being brought to the streets of New York.

MRB: I want to point out that in other places they’ve dug up the sidewalks and the streets and put the bike-share stations down in, so moving them is not very practical. The design we chose to use lets us move them overnight if that makes some sense. And we’ll take a look, and you have normal adjustments as you go along. But we’ve tried to use the best from all different parts of the world, and the real place you see the value of this is number one, people use it, but number two, in our economy, tourism creates an enormous number of jobs. I can’t think of anything that’s gotten as good press around the world as our bicycle program.

A reporter began her question by referring to people behind the press pack holding signs protesting the bike station in Petrosino Square.

MRB: I’m sure they’ll be quoted amply in the paper, probably more than everyone else here today.

(The reporter wrapped up her question, which was about how much space the bike-share stations take up.)

MRB: Bike racks do take up space, but the parked cars they replace take up a lot more space.