Testimony by Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives
● Citi Bike is a fast, healthy, sustainable and highly popular way to get around NYC
● The City must fund DOT to ensure a system of safe interconnected protected bike lanes accompanying the expansion of Citi Bike stations
● Equity: All New Yorkers must have access to Citi Bike. The City and Motivate must explore public investment in station expansion and membership options for all low-income New Yorkers
Thank you Council Members and Committee Chair Rodriguez. My name is Paul Steely White. I am the Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. We are a 43-year old advocacy organization with more than 150,000 people in our network and over 1,000 activists in every borough. We advocate on behalf of New Yorkers for safer, better, and more livable streets; and we fight to promote biking, walking, and public transportation as alternatives to cars.
Citi Bike: Fast, Healthy, Sustainable and Highly Popular
Citi Bike, New York City’s bike share system, has been a tremendous success. We applaud Motivate and NYC DOT for their efforts, and we are pleased to see ridership records repeatedly shattered. The growth of Citi Bike has been concurrent with an increasing number of New Yorkers biking, and the program’s success cements the role of bicycling in New York City as a primary transportation mode.New York City benefits from our bike share program: Citi Bike enhances the use of limited street space as a human-powered non-polluting transportation option. In parts of Brooklyn, where car parking spots turn over no more than once a day, each Citi Bike bicycle is used about 6 times a day. With 7 Citi Bike docks fitting into the space taken up by one parked car, that means 42 times more intensive and efficient use of scarce space.
We echo Charles Komanoff’s call for a cost-benefit analysis on Citi Bike that considers its impacts on access to transit, transportation efficiency, health and pollution - compared to other common daily transportation methods.
Prioritize Safety: Accelerate Investment in Interconnected Protected Bike Lanes
Cycling in NYC has become highly popular and significantly safer in recent years. This past year, 25% of NYC adults (1.6 million people) rode a bicycle. More than three-quarters of a million ride at least several times a month.
So far, Citi Bike has mainly expanded where protected bike lanes are already installed, which we believe has contributed to the system’s impressive safety record and popularity - for example, women are more likely to bike when and where protected bike lanes exist.However, as of this month, 231 of the city's 613 Citi Bike stations are more than a quarter mile away from a protected bike lane. That means nearly 40% of all stations lack proximal access to protected, life-saving infrastructure . Painted bike lanes help, but they are no substitute for protected bike lanes. As Citi Bike expands into neighborhoods where bicycling safety infrastructure does not exist, the DOT must accelerate implementation of a protected and interconnected bike lane network to make bike share use safe and easy for all.
The City must prioritize the building of protected bike lanes on all major arterial streets across the five boroughs, and move far beyond the FY2017 goal of 15 miles of new bike lane per year as a baseline. This will also help Mayor de Blasio’s stated goal of doubling the number of bike trips by 2020. Additionally, more cyclists means greater safety for all road users . Cyclists benefit when motorists become more familiar with cyclists, and both pedestrians and motor vehicle occupants are safer when more trips are conducted by bicycle instead of lethal multi-ton vehicles.
Equity - All New Yorkers Must Have Access to Bike Share: Explore Public Investment in Station Expansion and Membership Options
New York City’s bike share program should be recognized as a public resource and an integrated part of our treasured transit system. While Citi Bike’s current station locations make sense to ensure system connectivity, we are concerned about the pace of expansion in many parts of the city. Most of Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Upper Manhattan, do not have any bike share access. Bronx and Staten Island still have no stations at all, and we have seen no estimate of when the two boroughs will get them.
A more equitable expansion plan may necessitate a change in funding arrangements. At present, New York City’s bike share program is the only one in the United States to receive no direct public investment - it is entirely privately and user funded. If we view our roads and public transportation as public goods, then steps must be taken to bring bike share beyond the wealthiest neighborhoods, to allow all New Yorkers the benefit of this healthy and fast transportation option. Although Citi Bike stations far away from Manhattan’s Central Business District will likely be less profitable, the City and Motivate should discuss potential funding arrangements that could help expand the network faster. New York City’s subway and buses are publicly funded to ensure equitable transportation that is vital to job opportunities, inter-borough travel, and the economic success of our city. Similarly, the City should invest in our bike share program as part of our city’s healthy and sustainable transportation options in the 21st century.
Bike share is great for solving the “last mile problem.” With more expansion city-wide, bike share can help residents connect to mass transit and local business- and employment hubs. This can help in “transit deserts” that are under-serviced by buses and the subway. To make bike share affordable for all New Yorkers, the City should work with Motivate to expand Citi Bike's membership discounts, which currently exist for NYCHA residents and Credit Union Members, to include all low-income New Yorkers. Some of the highest concentrations of NYCHA properties are in Brownsville, East New York, the South Bronx, and Jamaica - places where there is no current plan to expand Citi Bike.
In the words of Mayor de Blasio: “Citi Bike has become part of our public transportation system.” At Transportation Alternatives we believe that the essence of a public transportation system is that it serves the many, not a privileged few. We call for city-wide expansion of Citi Bike, with public investment if necessary, accompanied by an interconnected system of protected bike lanes, to make bicycling in New York City safe and easy for all New Yorkers.