It was an event fit for the cameras.
Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., and transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg rolled up to a press conference using bicycles from Citi Bikes as a way to announce the popular bike rental program was expanding to the Bronx. It’s part of an overall expansion bringing the service to the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan by 2023, and received considerable attention in this particular outer borough because of how many perceive the Bronx is underserved by public transportation.
Although several neighborhoods were highlighted in the announcement — Mott Haven, Melrose, Port Morris, Highbridge, Claremont, Morrisania, Longwood, Concourse and Mount Eden — it’s unclear if any bicycles will find themselves docked inside Community Board 8.
The city’s map showing where the blue bikes will be located seems to cover parts of Kingsbridge Heights and Marble Hill, but will those areas get docks and bikes? Or will the docks be close enough that folks in those neighborhoods can access them with a short walk?
A Citi Bike spokesman said expansion areas and dock placement are the responsibility of the city’s transportation department, an agency itself that seemed not to have a direct answer. Transportation officials began expansion in Bushwick in Brooklyn this spring and expect to continue in Queens’ Ridgewood neighborhood this fall.
“We will also be conducting outreach in the South Bronx and Upper Manhattan in the fall in advance of expansion there next year,” a transportation spokeswoman told The Riverdale Press.
While the spokeswoman couldn’t elaborate on exactly where Citi Bike docks would be located, she did have a timeframe in mind.
“We expect this entire next phase of expansion to be complete in no more than five years,” the spokeswoman said. “We hope to finish it earlier than that, as we continue our deliberate planning and careful attention to get all aspects of this expansion right.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority conceived the idea for a citywide bike program in 2008. It took the form of a privately owned company — named for its main sponsor, Citigroup — that rolled out its first 6,000 bikes and 332 stations throughout Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn in 2013. It’s grown to about 12,000 bikes and more than 700 stations as of late 2017, making it the largest bike rental program of its kind in the nation.
In June, the company that owns Citi Bike announced it hit a record of more than 86,600 trips taken in a single day. That parent company is now Lyft, the ride-hailing company that bought Citi Bike in 2018.
Last October, Lyft announced plans to invest $100 million into tripling Citi Bike’s fleet and service area over a five-year period. Included was a $5 monthly membership opportunity for city residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, as well as residents of the New York City Housing Authority.
July’s announcement outlined the geographic locations for expansion. South Bronx neighborhoods were on the list, but not Kingsbridge, Marble Hill, Spuyten Duyvil or Riverdale. Adding to the puzzlement is the expansion map that shows the third phase of the project stretching to the southern end of Van Cortlandt Park between Irwin Avenue and Mosholu Parkway — well outside the boundaries of the aforementioned neighborhoods.
A representative from Councilman Andrew Cohen’s office said they had not heard about Citi Bike expanding into the northwest Bronx in the near future. There have, however, been presentations by a Citi Bike competitor, Jump Bike — which is owned by Lyft’s primary ride-hailing competitor Uber — to local community boards.
It appears doubtful, however, that any other bike rental programs will move into the area, officials said.
“With the Citi Bike announcement, the city made clear that it wants to protect a monopoly and is willing to wait years to offer service to New Yorkers outside of affluent neighborhoods,” a Jump Bike spokesman told The Press. “Since they won’t allow us to operate citywide — which we’d be willing to do immediately — we have to re-evaluate our future plans around community board engagement.”
So far, there’s been no overtures made to CB8 about bringing bikes to the area, traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht said. It is unclear if Citi Bike, however, would have to present plans in the first place.
Docks and such would likely eat up street parking, which remains a highly valuable commodity throughout the neighborhoods served by CB8. And that, Padernacht said, could create pushback if and when Citi Bike decides to move in.
“I believe it would be prudent for DOT to present to the community board prior to engaging with Citi Bike before bringing bike stations to the community,” Padernacht said.