6,000 21-minute rides
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Despite some minor opening day hiccups, Citi Bike and city officials called New York City’s bicycle-sharing launch a “great success.”
According to Citi Bike, as of 5 p.m. on Memorial Day, program members –- non-members will be allowed to rent the bikes starting June 2 -- took 6,050 rides of roughly 21 minutes each on the bright blue, slightly clunky-looking bicycles.
While many of the docks are located in Brooklyn, ridership was greater in Manhattan, with stations located on Broadway getting the most use. Still, a handful of riders were sighted pedaling along Brooklyn’s bike paths and parks on opening day.
"The Citi Bike program is a big win for New York, and it's already the largest bike share system in the nation," said Mayor Bloomberg, at a press conference on Chambers Street in Manhattan. "It's going to give New Yorkers another way to get around town by extending connectivity from subway and bus stops.”
Mayor Bloomberg has been a major force behind the bike share program and other bicycle initiatives spearheaded by Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
"Citi Bike isn't just a bike network, it's New York City's first new public transit system in more than 75 years," Sadik-Khan said. "Bikes are convenient, safe and affordable transit for growing numbers of New Yorkers and Citi Bike will change how we get around the city for years to come."
Some Citi Bike members were wildly enthusiastic about the bike share program. Twitter user Darren Buck commented, “World's best public bike system began yesterday: Congrats JSK [Janette Sadik-Khan].”
Transportation Nation retweeted, “Riding a bike ‘makes you love this city even more than you did before.’”
While many were out enjoying their bike rides, however, some members complained they had never received their special electronic “keys” which allow bikes to be unlocked from the docks.
According to complaints on Twitter, Citi Bikes’ phone lines were totally swamped on Monday.
“I got through after 84 minutes! They took my info and said they'd call me back,” complained Jake Dobkin on Twitter. Dobkin said he had tried emailing the program but was given the run-around. “They recommended calling the customer service phone number.”
Another Twitter user wrote, “My boyfriend and I are both members #600 and haven't gotten ours. Line busy now.”
The program’s 6,000 bikes are locked in 300 docks scattered every few blocks across sections of Brooklyn -- Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and Clinton Hill -- and in Manhattan below 59 Street.
The locations of the stations are supposed to make it easy for riders to hop on a bike after leaving a subway station or bus and travel the “last mile” to their destination, as opposed to making longer trips, according to the city.
Some residents in areas like Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Midtown and Tribeca, however, have complained about the logo-covered bike stations and have expressed concerns about their impact on traffic safety and building access.
Three lawsuits, including one by residents of 150 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, have been initiated, and up to nine more are in the works, according to reports.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) points to the nearly 400 meetings over the past two years of planning as evidence that it made an effort to reach out to residents. But some who attended those meetings say DOT disregarded their objections and refused to make the final station locations public until late in the process.
Eugene Perepada, owner of DUMBO Hardware on Front Street, told the Brooklyn Eagle in April that he thought bike sharing was a great idea – but he wasn’t asked about where the bike stations should go, and neither were his fellow business owners.
“I spoke to Foragers, the eyeglass place across the street [Eyedrop Optique], Front Street Pizza, everybody,” he said.
According to Streetsblog, Mayor Bloomberg said Monday that the kinks would eventually be worked out. “I’m sure there’ll be some teething pains, there will be some people who need a wake-up call, and we’ll try to do it to the best extent we can.”
More than 16,000 people have signed up to be members so far, according to Citi Bike. Annual members who sign up at citibikenyc.com will receive an electronic key, allowing unlimited trips up to 45 minutes each.
Starting June 2, non-members will be allowed access to the bikes for a daily ($10 plus tax) or weekly ($25 plus tax) fee, but will be limited to trips of 30 minutes each. Rides past the 30- or 45-minute deadlines incur steep overage charges -- from $2.50 for members and up to $13 per half-hour for non-members.
If the bike is destroyed, lost or stolen the user’s credit card can be billed $1,000 -- unless victims call 1-855-BIKE-311 and fill out paperwork within 24 hours.
While helmets are not available for rental, the city says it “strongly” encourages their use. Annual members receive a $10 helmet discount coupon.
Citi says the bikes, which it sponsored for $41 million, will eventually extend to the Upper East and West sides, Long Island City and Sunnyside in Queens and to Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Crown Heights and Greenpoint in Brooklyn.