After Eight Weeks, NYC Bike-Share Usage Already Comparable to London’s

Earlier this week, Citi Bike nearly reached 34,000 trips in a single day despite the extreme heat. Image: NYC Bike Share

NYC Bicycle Share recently posted about ten days’ worth of new Citi Bike user stats, and it looks like the heat wave isn’t putting a damper on bike-share trips.

Less than two months after launch, Citi Bike now has more than 60,000 members. And with the heat index in Central Park consistently breaking the 100-degree barrier this week, the system is still logging more than 30,000 trips per day on average.

Between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Wednesday, bike-share riders made nearly 34,000 trips. That’s close to six trips per bike in sweltering heat. For some context, London’s bike-share system set its usage record during last year’s Olympics, after two years of operation, and even then the system didn’t exceed six trips per bike, according to WikiPedia. And while the London system has about 2,000 more bikes than New York’s, it saw about the same number of trips this June — 810,000 — that NYC saw in the last 30 days.

Each day, about 400 to 600 new annual members continue to join, so usage almost certainly hasn’t hit a ceiling yet. But in some parts of the city, bike-share is already bumping up against the capacity of the system at times of peak demand. Judging by Oliver O’Brien’s animation of NYC bike-share usage, bike shortages develop around Hell’s Kitchen and the East Village after the morning rush, then hit the Midtown and Lower Manhattan job centers after the p.m. rush.

Adding capacity and redistributing bikes (or adjusting incentives, like Paris did to encourage more Velib users to make uphill trips) can help balance out the system, and there’s probably some room for Citi Bike to improve on this front. But dockblocking and bike shortages will always persist to some extent. In London, which seems to have less-balanced distribution patterns than NYC, about 18 percent of the stations were either empty or full at the tail end of the evening rush today.

As Washington, DC, bike shops can attest, this is good news for businesses that sell bikes. Right now bike-share is giving New York a glimpse of the latent demand for cycling that’s been here all along. A lot of people who wanted to bike but didn’t own one are getting a taste of how convenient biking for transportation can be in New York. Since there are limits to what bike-share can do, many of these people will probably be in the market for a new bike pretty soon.