Citi Bike’s Sweet Success

Image Courtesy FreeRadicalX

New York’s big blue bike share system has taken the city by storm. In Manhattan from the Battery to 59th Street, it’s hard to walk a block without seeing a smiling face on a Citi Bike. In the sliver of Brooklyn that’s lucky enough to have bike share kiosks, commuters, tourists, parents, kids and just about anyone else you can imagine seem thrilled to take advantage of New York City’s newest public transit option.

As of early August, there have been more than 1.4 million Citi Bike trips accounting for 3.35 million miles traveled. More than 65,000 New Yorkers have paid $95 to become an annual member of the system, and blue bikes have joined yellow cabs as iconic pieces of New York’s streetscape. Put more plainly, the Citi Bike program is a big success.

Of course, there have been rough spots. Neighborhood cranks and serial bloviators have found reasons to complain and media outlets willing to spread their views. And there have been more honest issues: from rack placement to software glitches to reorganizing bikes so that they’re where people need them when they want them, Citi Bike’s launch hasn’t been perfect. But who could expect that?
New York City’s Department of Transportation and NYC Bike Share LLC., the private company that oversees the program, just put the nation’s largest bike share system—with 6,000 bikes and 300 kiosks—into one of the most demanding, intense and fast-paced cities on the planet. It would be ridiculous to expect anything less than a little friction. What’s remarkable is how quickly the wrinkles have been ironed out, how responsive the City has been to concerns and how wholeheartedly New Yorkers have taken to bike share.

In the coming months and years, there’ll be new challenges facing the system’s operators. Already communities and elected officials around the city are calling for a larger service area and an accelerated timeline for expansion. How and when these needs are met will tell a lot about Citi Bike’s ability to keep pace with the City that Never Sleeps and its eight million opinionated residents. So too will the long-term care and upkeep required to maintain a piece of the public transit landscape. So far, there’s every indication that things are on the right track, but Transportation Alternatives and tens of thousands of loyal customers will be watching closely and checking up on the system by the thousands every day.