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BY KAITLYN MEADE | Spring showers are giving way to May, but all across Lower Manhattan, it seems that instead of flowers popping up, long metal contraptions have been sprouting overnight. That’s right, Citi Bike, NYC’s bike-share program, is getting rolled out and drilled in throughout May, with 5,500 bikes at about 300 stations across Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The bike share program is opening May 27 [date was announced May 9], nearly a year later than initially planned, but the locations still came as a surprise to some residents who found them in front of their homes, businesses or where they left their cars.
One such resident of Battery Park City, Dorothy Lipsky, said she was coming home when she spotted the station, which must have been installed in the middle of the night on West Thames St., near South End Ave. and expressed surprise that they had chosen that location.
This station has 49 docks and is located in a no-parking area of the street, according to the map on Citi Bike’s website.
“I’m not opposed to the bikes,” said Lipsky. “I think the mayor has done a wonderful job on it.”
But she thought that it was “a very inappropriate location for a very good program… West Thames is a very congested street and a number of buses pass there and kids from the school cross there. If the other [locations] are as bad as this one, I think they’ll run into problems with the community,” she said.
In fact, the Department of Transportation has already run into problems over this particular station in July of last year, when members of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee were informed of its location.
A few people at the meeting noted that the street was crowded. West Thames is a “real dangerous road between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.” C.B. 1’s Tammy Meltzer said then. The Battery Park City Authority also asked that the West Thames St. and Vesey St. bike rack locations be reconsidered in a letter to the D.O.T.’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner.
The intersection has been a part of an ongoing argument about safety after a car crash in October of 2012.
However, slowing down dangerous traffic is an added benefit of these stations, said Stephanie Levinsky, a D.O.T. representative, at a February presentation to C.B. 1’s Planning Committee. The committee was also assured that the D.O.T. would consider shifting a station’s location if it was proven to be unsafe or if they received significant complaints after it was installed.
At one Tribeca location, a station was nearly prevented from being installed at all by Jacques Capsuoto, who said the racks would block the service entrance of his French bistro and take parking from the surrounding area.
When representatives of the D.O.T. and Citi Bike came to Washington St., Capsuoto sat solidly on the curb where the racks were to be installed in protest. He reportedly backed down hours later when the police arrived, but is still planning on fighting the location.
Others have rued their absences from the curb during station installations, namely because they could have moved their cars. In Greenwich Village, there have been reports of residents and visitors who park their cars by the curb only to return and find their vehicles have been replaced by bike racks. Apparently, there have been paper signs posted at the sites, but those who miss them have to trek to Brooklyn to reclaim their cars from the tow pound.
There have been positive reactions as well, said Tribeca resident and cyclist Charles Komanoff over the phone from Greenwich Park. “The kiosk that’s on my block, last week when it was installed, I saw so many people stopping and reading the signs.” When he asked them what they thought, he said, “everyone one of them said this is great.”
While Komanoff, an environmentalist who works on traffic planning, said that anytime entitlement, like curbside parking, was taken away, there would be complaints, but “It’s not just about them. It’s about the neighborhood, the community, the city.”
The stations will be stocked with bicycles in the coming month. The program, funded through a $41 million grant from Citibank is run and operated by NYC Bike Share, whose parent company, Alta Bicycle Share, runs the systems in Boston and Washington, D.C.
An annual membership in Citi Bike costs $95. Seven-day memberships can be purchased for $25 and 24-hour memberships are $9.95. Bikes will be available 24 hours a day throughout the year, unless weather conditions make cycling hazardous, according to the D.O.T. website.
For more information, visit citibikenyc.com.