Citi Bike Feedback Session: Requests for More Service, and Concerns

Business owners and local residents turned out to tell a subcommittee of Community Board 3 and the Department of Transporation’s Colleen Chattergoon what they think about the month-old Citi Bike share program.

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Community Board 3’s transportation committee members  listened to the pros and cons of Citi Bike last night. Photo by Jessica Mai.

Shareholders of the East River Housing Corporation, a complex of 1,700 apartments along Grand Street near the FDR, applauded the program, saying it is a “lifestyle changer” and that they would like to see more bicycle stands in the “transportation-deprived area,” according to Jeff Super, chair of East River’s Housing Committee. The closest train stations to the apartments are at least 10 minutes’ walk away, at East Broadway and Essex St., and recent cuts to bus service make getting around more difficult, he said.  

According to the map on the Citi Bike website, there are only two operating stations within the three blocks of the apartments: the Cherry Street station and one at Bialystoker Place and Delancey Street, offering a total of 39 docking stations and an inconsistent number of bikes.

“The bikes are very well used,” Super said. “Bikes leave in the morning and sometimes it’s hard to dock them in the evening.”

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Based on interactive map on the Citi Bike website.

The station at Henry and Grand streets, shown above in gray, had been removed but will be put back up, according to District Manager Susan Stetzer. Residents were worried that it was moved because of the complaints and petitions from supporters of Frank’s Bike Shop, but the DOT and Stetzer assured the crowd of its return. 

“It was not moved at all because of the bike shop,” Stetzer said. “It was a temporary move because of utility work and was brought back.” With this location back, it will add 28 more docks to the neighborhood. 

Business owner Linda Martella said she, too “likes the idea” of the program– just not in front of her store. Martella, owner of Veniero’s Pastry on East 11th Street, said the street is already narrow, and the Citi Bike station across the street took over seven parking spaces and impedes the flow of traffic, especially when there are delivery trucks on the commercial street.

“We are especially concerned with the holiday time when [customers] come to pick up their orders,” Martella said. “We now have lost these parking spaces, making it difficult for the customers to carry these orders out.” In addition to those issues, she also worries the winter weather would pose problems for her and the bikes with snow removal and snow collecting around these bikes. “We are not opposed to bike rack program, we just feel the bike racks are not at the best location.”

Other store owners, such as Lillian Kwok of P&S Trading Inc., and Sophia Ng of Po Wing Hong Food Market, have voiced their concerns about the bike stations as well. The Hester and Elizabeth streets bike station, which is part of Community Board 2, however, was said to be hazardous for both cars and pedestrians as it is a busy, narrow street.

Elizabeth Street bike share location.

Elizabeth Street bike share located in front of P&S Trading Inc. Photo by Jessica Mai.

According to Chattergoon, the department is still “working out the kinks” and fixing stations based on rider feedback. The stands were built to be moved, so stations are not permanent, she said.  

15 comments to Citi Bike Feedback Session: Requests for More Service, and Concerns

  • Twodice

    They need to get a rotation system in order. Remove surplus bikes or use the data to predict when docks/bikes would be needed.

  • J Petrille

    Thanks very much for this report. Any word on just when the Henry and Grand station will be back?

  • Tamara D

    Surely they’re collecting enough analytics about their subscribers and user-base? There must be knowledge about what docks are empty vs. full. Perhaps instituting a reward-based system whereby riders that return to under-stocked areas vs. docks closer to home, receive discounts/perks?

  • Twodice

    From what I can tell, nothing like this occurs. Compared to Montreal where they have an active team ready to restock and redeploy bikes in high demand area. Take one look at midtown now on Citibke and you’ll see there are next to no bikes.

  • david

    I’m happy to read that Mr. Super represented East River Residents in a positive manner!

  • SFrankel

    People from Montreal say it took them a good year in order to collect enough data to start moving things around efficiently.

  • david

    In the last day I’ve noticed citibike vans in the area twice, so maybe they are listening to gripes.

  • Twodice

    Maybe I’m expecting too much, but for the total number of subscribers vastly eclipsing the total number of bikes, I hope they can implement this soon.

  • Twodice

    Also, would it be recommended to have a bike station on Delancey by the bridge (on the side with the benches/car park lot side)?

  • qrt145

    They already do it; I’ve seen a rebalancing crew in action, docking bikes from a van into an empty station in Midtown. I don’t know how many rebalancing vans they have, but I think the demand for bikes is just too strong. Consider a Midtown station with 40 bikes during the evening rush: it gets emptied in a matter of minutes. Rebalancing against that strong a demand is going to be tough no matter how you try.

  • Sabina

    They have at least one truck that moves bikes around. *Clearly* that isn’t enough, but they are trying it seems.

    If you look at 24 hour usage data — for example http://bikes.oobrien.com/newyork/ — and click on a few stations, you can see jumps in numbers of bikes or spaces at strange times which I think indicate the redistribution truck at work.

    My friend saw the truck in action and took a picture and sent it to me, so I know it exists.

  • J Petrille

    It seems like it would take a longtime to drill down on specifics. But it doesn’t take a detailed study to know that midtown’s going to be out of bikes by rush hour and that heavy residential areas, like at the Grand Street apartment buildings, will have full docks at roughly the same time.

  • SFrankel

    I’ve seen a van, too, and talked to the people (who have suspisciously Canadian accents, so they might be spies, I’m just saying). This was about a week after the launch. They knew from the start that they’d have to do rebalancing – in Montreal, for example, they have to truck bikes from the bottom of long hills back up to the top. And they’re doing some now, but it’s all adhoc; they don’t really have a good sense of what the usage patterns are, and they can’t deploy the vans very efficiently. It’s not likely that the usage patterns in the first few weeks of usage are going to be typical, anyway.

  • Jane Barrer

    Ms. Mai chose not to mention my statement at the CB3 meeting in support of the Citibike program, and in particular for the bikestands in Chinatown, especially the one on Elizabeth Street. (Shame on your biased reporting Ms. Mai.) The narrow little streets of Chinatown are ideally suited to bicycles, and I have noticed that the Elizabeth Street bikestand is heavily used by our community – so much so that the other day when I went to get a bike all were gone. Chinatown is a district that is subject to horrendous traffic problems due to regular street closings on Mulberry and Hester Streets, and because Canal and Broome Streets serve as a conduit to the Holland Tunnel. In the weekend Broome Street is a stationary honking mess as traffic police are never assigned there. In addition, the narrow streets of our community are overwhelmed by such oversize vehicles as delivery trucks, tourist buses, commuter buses and vans, cheap inter-city bus services, stretch limousines, restaurant supply vans and double-decker tourist buses. The vast majority of these vehicles run their engines when standing in violation of NYC law, and generally ignored by the police. The air quality of the neighborhood is poor as a result, and the noise of engines is a constant irritant. The health of our community is affected by the constant traffic, idling engines and intemperate driving by frustrated drivers. Conversely, bicycles are silent, non-pollutant and small. But the store owners of Elizabeth Street instead posit that a stationary bikestand is “hazardous for both cars and pedestrians.” Seriously how can anyone say that with a straight face?
    Jane Barrer
    M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden
    Resident of Elizabeth Street (1986-07) and Mott Street (07-now)

  • oh well

    i think the real problem in that area is that those streets were made with horse and carriage in mind. those buildings are so old that when they were built no one had the forsight to expand the streets. with modern vehicles and like you said with that tunnel traffic it can become a nightmare but it has been that way as long as i can remember. born and raised on prince and elizabeth since 1966 still in the area along with my family and a dwindling amount of friends who have been priced out of the neighborhood.