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Petition drive seeks to bring city’s bicycle-rental scheme to Bay Ridge

Pushback: Eight-year-old Ethan Wind, pictured here with mom Kelley, was really mad about losing parking spaces when Citi Bike came to Park Slope last year. Some Ridgites — but not all — fear the same if the program expands to their nabe.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Citi Bike may be rolling to the Ridge.

A non-profit bicycle advocacy group has gathered more than 700 signatures on a petition to bring the Citi Bike bicycle-rental program to Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. And the petition drive is well past the halfway mark toward the tipping point, which can move the city to consider the neighborhood in upcoming expansion plans, according to the head of the group.

“When we get more than 500, people take notice,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “When we hit 1,000, that’s a critical threshold where we get more support from community members, small businesses and elected officials.”

The actual decision on where to place new Citi Bike stations lies with the city and Motivate, the for-profit company that owns and operates the program. Yearly membership is $163 for unlimited trips of less than 45 minutes.

Currently, there are 600 bike stations and 10,000 bikes across the city. About a third of them are in Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Downtown, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Red Hook, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint. But none have been placed in any neighborhoods in car-centric Southern Brooklyn — yet.

The company expects to add another 100 stations and 2,000 bikes this year, with the Brooklyn expansion already planned to reach into Crown Heights and Prospect Heights.

“We have offered to continue to expand the program and bring another 6,000 bikes with no cost to taxpayers to all five boroughs,” said Dani Simons, Motivate’s director of communications. “We will work with the city to determine where the bikes should go.”

Not everyone in Bay Ridge is excited about the prospect of hosting a Citi Bike rack in the place of several precious parking spots, and encouraging locals to swap four wheels for two.

“They put bicyclists out in the road. They take more road space, and they have no respect for cars or drivers,” said Allen Bortnick, an 11-year member of Community Board 10. “Fourth Avenue is 50 feet wide. They want to reduce to one lane each way and make it next to impossible to use.”

Bortnick says that he’s not anti-bicycle, but worries about ceding more and more street space to pedal power at the expense of automobile traffic flow.

“I have no interest in stopping bicycles from using the streets,” continued Bortnick. “I’m bothered by when they put them on main drives and main avenues and take away a lane. You don’t need a six foot wide lane for bicycles for off curb parking.”

White counters that bike advocates are not pushing for global bicyclical domination, but rather aiming to more equitably share the road between cars, bikes and public transit.

“No one is suggesting we should turn all the car storage spaces into bike spaces,” he said. “But, I think most people would support the modest conversion of some car parking into bike-share spaces, recognizing that even in a neighborhood like Bay Ridge, most commuters are not driving to work.”

White contends that a majority of Bay Ridge residents actually favor turning over some parking spaces to bikes, despite a vocal minority that complains about losing spots for cars.

A Citi Bike space provides 40 times more transportation productivity than a car space, according to TransAlt figures, considering that six bikes fit in a single car-parking space and those bikes turnover about seven times a day, while a car will typically move just once a day — if that.

White framed the push to bring Citi Bike to the Ridge as a question of equity — not between bikes and cars, but Bay Ridge and other neighborhoods — and he doesn’t think Ridgites want to see their nabe short-changed.

“People in Bay Ridge are saying ‘Aren’t we as deserving as other neighborhoods that have this great new transit option?’ ” said White. “What is defining it is this view of equity that Bay Ridge is no different from Downtown Brooklyn or Park Slope or Bedford Stuyvestant. That bike share — like bus service, like subway service — should be possessed by Bay Ridge residents like all New Yorkers.”

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