CitiFright is more like it

IMG_1158Manhattan’s problem-plagued CitiBike rental program is celebrating its initial year in the Big Apple with a one-day special: free donuts and a $1 rental fee.

The free donut is emblematic of CitiBike’s spotty first-year performance (i.e. Why serve fattening junk food to entice people to exercise? What am I missing?).

Donuts and calories notwithstanding, CitiBike has been struggling to peddle uphill against major financial and service issues. And, now, they must decide whether to unionize their employee base (which is demanding it do so).

But, shifting into a higher, and more important, gear, I think the CitiBikes are a major mistake for Manhattan. I know some city residents, including Peppercomm’s Matt Lester, swear by the Sherman Tank-like blue bikes. But, I’ve had more close encounters of the worst kind with CitiBike riders than Manhattan streets have potholes.

I understand the ecological benefits of more bicycles and fewer cars, buses and trucks but, when one adds in eight million residents, billions of neck-craning tourists and millions of daily commuters, Manhattan street corners and crossings need yet another hazard like Chris Christie needs another traffic jam.

The CitiBike menace grows positively terrifying around peak holiday seasons when totally clueless visitors to our country slingshot their rented cycles along sidewalks, through red lights and in the wrong direction on a one-way street (all the time shouting to passers-by: “You tell me! Empire State. Where is at?”).

While they may make perfect sense in other less congested cities, CitiBikes are a bad idea here in the Big Apple. Frankly, I’m amazed there haven’t been more serious accidents directly attributable to the death traps.

I’m all for a cleaner, more pedestrian, runner and biker-friendly city, but there’s a reason for parks and bike lanes: they’re intended for non-motorists.

It’s time for a Curtis Sliwa-type, anti-CitiBike activist to take up the cause and get these infernal machines off our streets. We need a whole new generation of guardian angels.

Until then, a word of advice: in addition to the normal precautions you’d take when crossing, say, 42nd and Fifth Avenue, keep an eye open for a donut-munching, recklessly swerving tourist dodging cars, trucks and buses as he zips his CitiBike through the intersection at the last second. The medical expenses you save may be your own.

19 thoughts on “CitiFright is more like it

  1. I’d love to respond, but I was just wiped out by a CitiBike-riding tourist from Greenland who was barreling up 32nd St. in the wrong direction.

  2. I must admit to really liking that Curtis Sliwa-type leader/group idea to get rid of CitiBikes. OK. I do want to see them banned, Peter.

  3. If you’re not for banning them, can I assume this is simply pique? “It’s time for a Curtis Sliwa-type, anti-CitiBike activist to take up the cause and get these infernal machines off our streets. We need a whole new generation of guardian angels.”

  4. I don’t know that I’d ban them, Peter. But I would restrict where CitiBike cyclists could ride AND make first-time users watch a rules of the road video before they set out to wherever it is they’re going.

  5. I disagree with you on this one. Laura and you are correct that Citi Bike’s fundamental problem is going from zero to thousands. But you’re proposed solution — ban ’em — makes no sense. Other congested cities have made it work. Expecting things to be perfect after one year is unfair at best. I don’t see how banning the bikes helps anyone except appeasing a few angry people.

    There are already laws on the books to deal with this, but NYC — pretty lawless when it comes to motorized vehicles, speeding and annual pedestrian deaths — hasn’t enforced them. There is a plan under way for better enforcement of the laws called Vision Zero. It affects bikes too. I know lots of bikers getting tickets.

    DOT, Transportation Alternatives and other groups I work with have done the best we can with limited resources to make bikers better-behaved citizens. Ultimately though, costly tickets from the police will get the job done.

    As for the financial/management issues of parent company Alta, I’ve dealt with them and it’s pretty hopeless. Good business model, bad execution. I finally understand why guys like Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman get so angry. It’s probably best that investors clean house and start over.

  6. You’ll change your tune as soon as one of those runaway CitiBike’s slices off a foot a la what happened to the aspiring foot model, Ed Moed, in ‘Nam.

  7. Warn the unsuspecting pedestrians: Duck and cover! The bikes are coming! Give instructions: Put your sit down on the seat, your hands on the handle-bars. Highly dangerous: re-introduce the stop and frisk initiative and target those marauding crazed tourists terrorizing Gotham. I can’t believe you think this is such a terrible problem. Rep, this is New York City- not a school playground.

  8. While I intend to steer clear (pun intended) of the battle between Paul and the Danderoo, I do think Laura touched on the fundamental problem with CitiBikes. One day there were none. Today, there are thousands. And the city has done nothing to warn unsuspecting pedestrians or provide cycling instructions/rules of the road to riders. The result is the highly dangerous, one-year-old situation we’re celebrating today with free donuts. Ugh!

  9. We need to agree to disagree on this one Paul. The future will be a combination of alternatives to high emission vehicles, and bikes will play a big part. There are more bike lanes and pedestrian only areas in the City. The folding bike business is booming nationwide, and there are bicycle and baby stroller combinations (,) Also, the number of people commuting by bike increased by 60% since 2000. (
    I wasn’t suggesting you subject your daughter to the dangers of City traffic, but bikes aren’t going away. If ya’ can’t beat ’em join ’em!

  10. Bikes are most certainly NOT the future of transportation. If that were the case, we are regressing. What we need are more environmentally-friendly automobile options. I’m teaching my daughter the importance of doing exercise and taking care of the planet. But I am not taking her on a death ride through Manhattan on a bike while carrying a diaper bag, toys, and my work bag. We need to measure all of these decisions against practicality. The CitiBike program is not practical and needs to go.

  11. The only problem I see here is the fact that donuts are being used as cheap marketing ploy. Citibike may not be doing as well as anticipated, but there is a growing global problem with pollution and climate change, which we have definitely caused.

    The bikes may not be convenient for people trying to park (hey, I have a car, and like that Citibike is around), but they are a necessary start to get us to all change our habits to be less of an impact on the environment.

    I’ll certainly agree that they are not being used properly (i.e. people riding on sidewalks . . . not wearing helmets), but there were lots of accidents and annoyances prior to the invention and then the later perfections of the stoplight. If we just get rid of bike sharing programs, that’s really not helping anyone. We just need to have a bigger campaign around the rules of biking and have those rules be enforced.

  12. Paul, I’m not saying bikes will replace all other forms of transportation, just saying their numbers are increasing and, particularly as as parent, I think you should join ’em and not fight ’em. Teach your daughter the joys of biking and how the family can help our planet. And to your point about going to new business meetings… I see men and women dressed for work all the time.

  13. Danderoo that may be the point but it’s not doing anything to take trucks and buses off the road. CitiBikes aren’t going to get food delivered to the corner bodega and they aren’t going to transport 100 people at a time. So trucks and buses will remain, as will taxis, because really, who is going to ride a bike to their next new business presentation?

  14. I’m not with you on this one Rep. I’d rather dodge a bike than a car and bikes are the urban transport of the future. We’d better get used to it, and as time passes, it will become less invasive. And, alot of the tourists are from cities that already have embraced bikes as regular transport (think, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Berlin) and are actually more apt than our domestic brethren.

  15. I’ve been against CitiBikes from day one. And while I share the concerns in your blog, my gripe is mainly about the amount of space they take up on the curbs of miles of city streets. As if finding parking isn’t bad enough, now we have less to work with because of these mega-stations full of bikes. I can even understand putting them in places where parking is restricted anyway, but this still blocks off a whole lane of road, which in turn, causes more traffic, which in turn causes engine idling that causes more pollution. And what irks me even more is seeing these bikes in residential areas, like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where there are no strict parking restrictions, and where residents clearly need more space on the street to leave their cars. This idea just wasn’t thought through well enough.

  16. Couldn’t agree with you more. My morning commute has gotten even more hectic since these bikes became available. Nothing worse than a tourist sipping on his K-town coffee cutting you off when you have the right of way to cross the street. Also, shouldn’t they be wearing helmets?