From left: TA Executive Director Paul Steely White, Pratt Center Policy Director Elena Conte, Bed-Stuy Restoration Executive Vice President Tracey Capers, and City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: David Meyer
After a rough start, Citi Bike is on a roll. Recent service improvements and expansions have turned around enrollment numbers and led to countless record-setting days for NYC bike-share ridership. But while the service has become a viable and successful new way to get around, bike-share has yet to reach most of the city’s low income neighborhoods and communities of color.
That can change, according to participants at an NYU Rudin Center panel yesterday on bike-share equity, but only if residents of those communities see bike-share as intended for them. Doing that means providing low-cost enrollment fees, enabling local residents to take charge of efforts to promote bike-share specifically and cycling in general, and expanding the Citi Bike network to the city’s more peripheral and transit-poor neighborhoods.
The next planned phase of Citi Bike expansion won’t make it to the poorer parts of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Upper Manhattan. Map: Citi Bike
Station density is the hallmark of an effective bike-sharing system, which means the network should be contiguous with stations spaced close together. But for Citi Bike that also means its limited resources were first deployed in the most affluent parts of the city, and for the most part the network has yet to reach poorer neighborhoods.
“The planning of the network starts in the Central Business District and emanates out from there,” said Pratt Center Policy Director Elena Conte. “The other thing that starts in the Central Business District of Manhattan and emanates out from there… is escalating real estate prices.”
Conte said Citi Bike’s association with gentrification — along with the way the service is branded, marketed, and priced — turns lower-income New Yorkers off the service. “I think the perception of Citi Bike in a lot of communities is that there’s a ‘tell, don’t show’ about how it’s good for you,” she said. “You look at the bikes, they have a corporate logo. You look at who’s on the bikes, they don’t necessarily look like you.”
In Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the few predominantly black neighborhoods with bike-share stations until this year’s expansion into Harlem, the Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation has worked to promote the service for NYCHA residents, women, and people of color by organizing community rides, for instance.