We’re Citibiking to Work, Not Play

Monday, March 31, 2014 – 05:00 PM

Source: TransportationNation

Citibikes parked in front of The Apple Store in midtown Manhattan. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

Citibikes parked in front of The Apple Store in midtown Manhattan. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

New Yorkers are using Citi Bike as a key part of their commute, not just for touristy joyrides, according to new data released by the bikeshare system and analyzed by NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation (pdf). Riders seem to be using the bikes to get from their subway stop to work, and from work to train on the way home. The busiest docking stations are those close to major subways hubs: Grand Central, Astor Place, Union Square and Penn Station top the list.


Commuting Patterns

Using the bikes for commuting explains riders’ biggest gripe about the system: half the time you can’t find a bike, and the other half you can’t find a dock. Riders take the bikes from a few central stations in the morning, and return them to those few in the evening. Citi Bike has teams of people shuttling bikes around by car to “rebalance” the distribution, but it’s hard to keep up with almost 30,000 trips a day.


Scaled Cities Subways (Graphic)

Compared to bike share programs in Chicago and D.C., New York has far more bikes, and far less distance between stations. Almost 75 percent of stations are within a five-minute walk of a subway stop. But maps of each network illustrate the limits of that – the dense clusters of blue dots end in a sharp line across 60th street, and most of the outer boroughs are blank. In DC, by contrast, the network spreads into Virginia and Maryland. While New York City Council members have expressed their willingness to use discretionary money to expand the system, that hasn’t happened yet.


Subscribers By Gender

Also out of balance is the gender breakdown of Citi Bike riders. Men outnumber women more than three to one. More men than women bike in general, but other bike share systems have a more even split between men and women members. In D.C., 45 percent of Capital Bikeshare members are female, according to a 2012 study (pdf).


Subscribers By Age

The system also released age data, which included a surprising number of people born in  -yes- 1899. Unless there are dozens of 115-year-olds cruising around the city, seems like users might be putting in fake birthdays. Leaving out people over age 80, here’s the age breakdown, at least as reported by users.


I find it interesting that “after the fact“, BikeShare companies are discovering who their customers are and what mix of subscription and daily ridership they need to stay solvent. When CitiBike was rolled out Mayor Bloomberg made it clear that this would be a transportation system which would not cost the taxpayers any additional monies. Yet we are looking at a system on the verge of bankruptcy and desperately trying to justify a tax by letting the citizenry know that it’s a vital bit of the transportation pie. How?

Well for one it does not sustain travel merely for tourists. Rather it is primarily for people using it to cover that “last mile” from the train station to the office. Great! We heard it justified at the very outset in this manner. But that would then beg the question as to why and how the fee structure was devised as low as it is, when the bulk of the subscribers (its primary users) are not paying enough to support it.

This is a bit like the State of Illinois asking for a temporary hike in the income tax and then deciding to make it permanent. If we cannot see through this charade then shame on us. BikeShare is going to be one more boondoggle costs more than its intrinsic value at a time when we are closing schools!

News Flash for Illinois politicians: The Cycling Movement is largely a shell game. There will not be enough boots on the ground to save your bacon should things go south and the motoring segment of the population decides to toss you out on your fat pensions. Just imagine what motorists will think when they hear you and the Cycling Movement bad mouthing driving and parking in the metropolitan areas and then suddenly upon realizing that the gas tax pays for everything transportation that you want now raise that tax because as was hoped drivers would drive less.

If motorists let you do this and at the same time do not wring your scrawny necks for continuing to install more Protected Bike Lanes then shame on us.