Bike share getting ready to roll Downtown May 27

Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade Curious passersby stopped to read signs for bike-share stations appearing in Lower Manhattan.

Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade
Curious passersby stopped to read signs for bike-share stations appearing in Lower Manhattan.

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.

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5 Responses to Bike share getting ready to roll Downtown May 27

  1. Komanoff is co-founder of Transportation Alternatives. DOT Commish Sadik Khan acknowledges taking direction from TA-which in turn has taken over the DOT. And with their presumed moral and logistical superiority- enabled by "Mike the Bike" Bloomberg- you have the architects of" bike bedlam".Jack Brown Coalition Against Rogue Riding

  2. 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.

    I live on West Thames where the new bike share station went in the middle of the road. I think Ms. Lipsky's view is reasonable but I don't think she's ultimately mistaken.

    West Thames is very wide. Cars go too fast because of the wide lanes, they make quick U-Turns and sure, we do have congestion from time-to-time. But ever since the station went in, with big rocks, and flag like divider things (to draw more attention to it), cars have been driving SLOWER and more CAREFULLY since they don't want to hit the bike share station/boulders.

    This is good. This is safe. This is known as "traffic calming." I realize it may seem counter-intuitive (putting bikes in the middle of road = safer) but this is borne out in tons of urban planning research.

  3. Relax…. Bike Share systems work in most major cities around the globe without the "bike bedlam" fears parroted by the tabloids. Paris, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Washington…. New York is just adding its name to the list.

    I find bike share such a convenient, efficient, and pleasurable mode of travel that I try to schedule business and pleasure trips in cities with bike share systems. And my preferred hotels have a bike share station near the entrance. (Hotel Le-St. James in Montreal!) Nice to be able to walk out of your building and hop on a bike for a quick trip crosstown.

  4. What people who oppose the location of a bikeshare station because a street is too crowded or dangerous, is that these are precisely the problems bikeshare helps solve. This isn't some theoretical made up notion. It has been seen happening in every city where bikeshare has been installed.

    1) The presence of bike share means there will be less taxis on the road, since many short hops can be achieved on a bike instead of a cab.
    2) The fact that a bunch of bicyclists will be added to this street's traffic will make people drive slower, making it safer.
    3) The addition of bicyclists on the edge of the road adds another buffer between cars and pedestrians, making pedestrians safer.

    The good thing is that since these bike docks are not attached to the ground, once the program is off and running, it will be easy for DOT to evaluate which stations are indeed causing problems and move them accordingly. But we really need to try these bike stations in different configurations first, and not pretend that we can forecast what will actually happen (for example, my 3 points above may not turn out to be true. In this instance, and some of the fears described in the article will be true. In which case DOT should then move the station. But lets at least try it first).

  5. ByByeBikeShare

    Wow! Each of your points is flawed! #3 is particularly ridiculous – Have you even visited NYC to witness that bikers on the edge of the road endangers pedestrians on a daily basis? You are much more likely to be hit by a reckless bicyclist running through a red light, coming from out of nowhere, than being hit by a car!

    Please, get your facts right before you write such dribble.

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