Citi Bike to expand following accusations of white favoritism

Citi Bike to expand following accusations of white favoritism
Department of Transportation

They’re pedaling away from controversy!

New York City’s largest purveyor of pedal-powered transportation announced a five-year expansion into eight virgin Brooklyn neighborhoods on Tuesday — one week after a social justice group called out the service for failing to serve low-income communities.

Transportation company Lyft — which acquired Citi Bike in 2018 — will invest $100 million to triple the total number of blue bikes in the city, many of which will be docked in transit-starved and low-income communities, according to Borough President Eric Adams.

“The expansion of Citi Bike into more low-income communities, and communities of color, is a long overdue step in delivering transit equity for all New Yorkers,” said Adams.

The announcement follows hot on the heels of a new study that shows Citi Bikes are currently concentrated in predominantly wealthy and white neighborhoods.

The head of New York Communities for Change — the organization behind the study — chastised the company for taking so long to bring their bikes to more neighborhoods in the city and said the company will need to take additional steps to ensure parity.

“We welcome bike sharing to previously unserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, but Citi Bike has had seven years to serve all New Yorkers and this is too little too late,” Jonathan Westin said in an emailed statement. “Citi Bike has prioritized the wealthiest and whitest parts of our city for too long, and while expanded access will be a big step forward, it’s the first of many needed to expand bike sharing to all New Yorkers.”

The Department of Transportation released a map of the planned expansion across the five boroughs. The agency, together with Citi Bike’s operator Lyft, are already building more docks along the L-train line, as shown in red.
Department of Transportation

The new plan calls for additional Citi Bike docks near the L Train — the company has been stuffing rental bikes along the line in anticipation of the now now-averted L-pocalypse since April — but the lion’s share of new docks will be spread throughout neighborhoods that have little to no access to the Citi Bike, including Brownsville, Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, East Flatbush, Windsor Terrace, Ditmas Park, Kensington and Sunset Park.

Park Slope and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where Citi Bike currently has a substantial presence, will also see some new docks installed in underserved areas.

The new rollout will be accompanied by new handcycles — hand-powered bikes ideal for some disabled riders — which the company will test out this summer at community events throughout the Five Boroughs.

Citi Bike currently offers a reduced membership of $5 per month — instead of $15 — to public housing residents or recipients of the federal food assistance program, called Snap.

But that’s not enough, according to Westin, who said that the upfront cost of $3 per trip and the $169 annual membership are still prohibitively high for many would-be cyclists in the city.

“Expensive per ride charges and membership fees continue to keep bike sharing out of reach for too many New Yorkers,” he said.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kdugg[email protected]glocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Seeing blue: Citi Bikes will come to almost a dozen more neighborhoods across Kings County by 2023, city officials announced on July 16.
Photo by Kevin Duggan