Citi Bike Shortages Persist, But New Bikes Are Coming — And An Additional E-Bike Charge

By Michael McDowell

Upper West Siders have a question for Motivate, the company that operates Citi Bike: where are all of the bikes?

A Citi Bike commuter, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted the Rag earlier this year. According to the tipster, a station at 120th Street and Claremont Avenue, near his apartment in Morningside Heights, is regularly empty prior to the morning commute.

It makes it almost not worth it, and Ive thought about cancelling my subscription,he told the Rag in an interview.

The situation is no better at a nearby station on 116th Street, between Broadway and Claremont, and on some days, he must walk across the Columbia University campus to find a bike, all the way to 123rd Street and Morningside Avenue.

Thats at least a 15-minute walk, and more than half a mile.

I just want there to be bikes every day,the tipster sighed. Im commuting to work, and I dont want to have to walk blocks and blocks to get to a bike.

Empty Citi Bike docks on the Upper West Side have been an issue for several years, which the Rag has written about previously, and Citi Bikers who live between 59th Street and 110th Street have probably encountered empty docks.

Citi Bike faces several intractable problems as it seeks to balance bike availability in Manhattan, and the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights are particularly impacted. Though one might assumecorrectlythat ridership is lower in the winter compared to the summer months (an average of 37,951 rides per day in January 2019, compared to an average of 65,098 rides per day in June 2018, per monthly operating reports available here), due to daylight savings time, more riders use the bikes to commute to work, and choose other modes of transportation for the return trip home, which is often made at night.

Bike distribution should improve as days lengthen; the end of daylight savings time should help.

Citi Bike also faces a directional flow in ridership: north-south rides are more popular than south-north rides, and downhill rides are more popular than uphill rides, meaning that there is a natural flow of bikes away from the Upper West Side.

Rebalancing teams move bikes to stations that need them, and a total of 63,441 bikes were rebalanced in January, compared to 153,604 bikes in June 2018. Trucks move about 200 bikes each weekday to the Upper West Side alone.

The company also operates a Bike Angel program, which offers points to riders who move bikes from crowded stations to stations in need. Points may be redeemed for awards and giveaways, including free Citi Bike day passes and gift cards.

A recent Northern Navigatorsinitiative, part of the Bike Angel program, further incentivized riders to move bikes from below 34th Street uptown. The initiative offered riders a point multiplier, based on how far uptown they moved a bike.

In the past, the initiative has had a measurable impact: bike availability increased by 5 percent, and 42 bikes per day were moved by riders alone.

Following a $100 million investment from Lyft in November 2018, Citi Bike will double the size of its current service area and triple the size of its fleet to nearly 40,000 bikes. Its highly likely that new stations will be added in Upper Manhattan130th Street is currently Citi Bikes northernmost stationand this should alleviate periodic bike scarcity on the Upper West Side and in Morningside Heights.

Meanwhile, Citi Bike is aware of these issues and the Upper West Side is a priority.

Our team is on the ground 24/7 to make sure stations are stocked and bikes are available for as many riders as possible,said a Citi Bike spokesperson, in a statement.

We are always looking for ways to improve our operations and we remain committed to providing the best possible service to riders across the many neighborhoods we serve.

The spokesperson was unable to share details regarding future stations, and a New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) spokeswoman was also unable to offer details beyond what was announced following the Lyft investment in November.

Could Citi Bike comment on the mysterious Barnacle Bike,which emerged from the Hudson earlier this week?

“This bike has been removed from service by our team,the spokesperson said.

The bike was last rented in September 2017, meaning it had splashed around the Hudson, carefree, for nearly eighteen months.

To those who may be tempted to take a bike along on a swim, or give a two-wheeler a toss into the river, be forewarned: a credit card attached to an amphibious bike may be charged up to $1,200 if that bike is not returned within a period of 24 consecutive hours,according to Citi Bikes user agreement.

It’s paramount, then, to have some plan to retrieve a bike thats gone for a swim.

Although some riders do appear inclined to hurl the occasional bicycle into the depths, rather than a barnacle bike, riders are likely to notice new pedal-assist electric bikes, or e-bikes, as 4,000 are to be added to the fleet over the next few months. An additional cost of $2 per ride will soon be associated with these e-bikes, beginning April 27, but until then, current Citi Bike members can enjoy this novelty for no additional charge.

Citi Bike representatives attended a recent Community Board 7 Transportation Committee meeting, and addressed many of these issues. A video of that meeting is available here.

NEWS | 50 comments | permalink
    1. Blessed Assurance says:

      Are riders required to maintain liability insurance in case they injure pedestrians while using the bike?

      How is Citibikes indemnified against claims arising from injuries sustained while using their bike rentals?

      • Citi is not my bike says:

        It’s in your agreement when renting the bike… “you” assume “all responsibility” once that bike leaves the rack.

    2. Not a bike city says:

      City bikes is an eyesore on the Upper West Side and always in the way and taking up parking spaces. That’s why they’re not in Central Park. Central Park Conservancy has yanked out 8 Citi bicycles from Central Park lake last week. I even close all my investment/savings and checking (personal and Business accounts) and switch over to Chase because I hate citi bikes. Even my neighbors hate citi bikes and flatten their tires on them…every night! We even flatten the tires of bikes that are chained up to parking signs on sidewalks hint hint hint! We’ve been doing it for years!

      • m_pipik says:

        Who is dumping good bikes into the lake?
        Isn’t there a record of who the last rider/user was? Are these stolen bikes?
        Just saying they were dumped into the lake doesn’t mean that the bike riders are bad.

        • Lock hacker says:

          I would think they were stolen bikes. There are bike hackers out there very easy to be solon and hacked. And just for your own information I’m a lock hacker and I can hack the locks that people leave apartment keys in.

      • Jim says:

        You should be arrested for vandalism.

        • Lockbox hacker says:

          LOL – come get me!
          Those apartment key lockboxes you find on different railings on the sidewalk are so easy to hack and you know it belongs to an apartment right in front of the building.

      • cjberk says:

        we want them gone as well. this is not Amsterdam. they are a nuisance, a hindrance to walking, parking, living here, and small business. a bad idea for nyc, a good idea for whoever it is making money on this.

      • UWSmom says:

        @ Not a bike city

        You are a vandal and a menace.

        People rely on bikes for affordable transportation.

        • Say NO to Citibike says:

          So go buy a bike and store in your apartment or in your basement…. but not in my backyard. It’s in the way and my dogs pees on those bikes, LOL If you rent citibike 100 times multiply that and you can have your own new bike valued at $500 plus. Do the math it’s not worth renting from Citibike.

          • sam says:

            Huh? UWsers do not rent Citibikes – they join Citibike as an annual member (one yearly fee). And they due so because it is financially prudent. You save money on subway/bus. You do not need to buy your own bike, and risk having it stolen or damaged (by folks like you).
            There will always be scrooges (like you) who have a problem with them. But the fact that the docks on the UWS are always empty is a sign of its incredible popularity and success. They are here to stay, so deal with it (or join!)

            As to your vandalism – I have never seen a CitiBike with a flat; the tires are bulletproof. So I highly doubt your claims. And dog pee – trust me, those bikes ride over a lot worse than dog pee. Lol.

        • Robert says:

          Actually no
          There own PR demographics shows that by far most of the people are young, mostly male, very well of folks from the UWS and the village
          The idea of biking to work for the distances required for must new Yorkers is ridiculous, I can only imagine sitting next to a sweaty person all day this time of year. let alone this summer. And before you say it if the folks using them are for “affordable transportation” the can’t not afford to stop in a gym near their office to shower before they go to work

      • Eva says:

        So, “not a bike city” using destruction of private property to get your way? Never mind the many people unable to get to work because of your vandalism?

      • Yeah! The nerve on these people! Why can’t they just not be poor and get a car like us, right buddy? How dare they get clean, efficient, easy transportation?!

      • The earth is melting says:

        Go live on another planet!

      • Jay says:

        Aren’t you a great vigilante…

        City Ike is here to stay. Your Luddite views are ignorant and illegal.

        • No more citibikes says:

          Good – citbikes are here to stay? I don’t think so… and I and my buddies will continue flattening the bike tires which will raise the rates until we can get rid of them from the streets…one of these days citibikes will leave because of high maintenance and that’s the whole idea of our bike vigilante. I urge other anti-citibikers to do the same. Citibank is not doing well in the market and they have been fine many times by the Federal government for going into the poor neighborhoods giving unauthorized credit to people who should not have it.

          • Jay says:

            Your ignorance to too much for anyone to believe you are real.

            You have to get better at trolling.

      • Jon says:

        Yeah how unfair that privately owned cars are not automatically entitled to free public parking spots.

      • Tsker says:

        Let’s see… you’re advocating petty vandalism – slashing bike tires – because your entitled sense of self has persuaded you to believe that storing your private property (your auto) on public property is your RIGHT?
        May God save your pathetic, self aggrandizing soul.

      • Josh says:

        Your choice to take you money out of Citibank because they paid for naming rights of citibike is completely your choice. I hope that, likewise, you always refrain from spending money with corporate entities that you dont agree with.

        However, letting the air out of the tires of bicycles, whether Citibikes or privately owned bicycles is vandalism and is illegal. If you were to feel justified in letting the air out of my tires, then I should feel similarly justified putting a brick through your front window. Legally, it is the same crime. Luckily for you, I don’t think the same way that you do.

      • BMAC says:

        You seem sane

      • EricaC says:

        If you really flatten tires and the like, you are a vandal. Lobby, if you must, be the pain that stops people from reducing the environmental load by using bikes to commute – but damaging the bikes (even in a reversible way) is vandalism. Not to mention infantile.

        Who are you people?

      • Not your call says:

        @notabikecity You’re a real jerk, you and your buddies. I hope you get caught soon.

      • Pat says:

        Just remember someone on a citibike is not in a car. If you are passionate about global warming, you should be happy commuters are riding bicycles as opposed to other forms of transportation which may be polluting our environment. However, limiting one’s carbon footprint is not an excuse for bad behavior. All bikers should respect the rights of pedestrians and motorists alike.

        • Stuart says:

          Pat – so you agree that those who ride bikes must obey the rules of the road, like stopping at red lights and obeying all trafiic signals and signs, signaling when making a turn, giving pedestrians the right of way, etc.
          Right ?

    3. Mark P says:

      Citibike member for 2 years so far. In the 80s, sometimes bikes are hard to find mid day but overall I believe the service is excellent value. I also think $2 surcharge for electric is totally fair and will help balance limited supply to the demand. The e-bikes are fun to ride and not a menace like the delivery bikes because they are pedal assist. You have to pedal to get power. Gives you more confidence in traffic, especially accelerating from a stop, and you can maintain speed on hills. The overall feeling is much like walking on the conveyor walkways at the airport – it’s like being Bionic Human.

    4. DMH says:

      Adding more stations will not solve the endemic problem of empty bike racks. I live near the rack at W 106 and WEA and there are rarely bikes, no matter the time of day. Unless they prioritize rebalancing and moving more bikes uptown the problem won’t be solved. The overflowing bike rack in Midtown needs to have fewer bikes and the racks on the UWS need more.

    5. Ann Wazelle says:

      We will no longer be able to afford to ride ebikes. If I ride 2 times Per day using an Ebilke for 100 days of the year I’ll be paying $400.00 more just to have an ebike. It seems once again a big company is catering to the wealthy and the rest of us are destined to have no affordable options. I would have hoped for more compassion and thought toward people who can’t afford to take fancy SUV’s etc. Very disappointed in this ridiculous fare hike for working class people.

      • Sam says:

        The ebike surcharge was necessary because they are so in demand, and as a result they are used more frequently and consequently never operational as their batteries drain quickly. In order to ensure they aren’t overused, they needed to do this. They are, indeed, an added value, so will cost more. there was no other option. Simply adding more to the fleet and maintaining them more frequently would necessitate higher membership fees due to the resulting added operational expenses. Citibike did not want to raise the fees for everyone, so they added the surcharge.

      • woody says:

        You’re entitled to bike share services provided by private companies? You should buy your own ebike if you use one so often.

      • Mark P says:

        Ann. using your example, the cost for your 200 rides is $169 annual membership plus $400 fees divided by 200 rides equals $1.42 a ride. Very reasonable, cheaper than the subway, and riding an e-bike still provides exercise and fresh air.

        As for those complaining about auto congestion and empty bike lanes, that’s a opportunity. Namely, get out of your cars and ride a bike!! Yes, yes not everyone can do it all the time. But far more can fhan do.

    6. linda leconte says:

      Ive been waiting for a bike share to come to Washington Heights ….Does anyone know when that will happen…Even the Bronx has bike service

    7. Kenneth Gray says:

      Big mistake the extra $2 for pedal assist bikes. It’s almost the price of an MTA ride, so where’s the savings? I predict a real fall-off in their usage and you’ll see a bunch of unused electric bikes in docks

    8. UWS Craig says:

      The problems will be eliminated once they institute congestion pricing and charge an extra $5 per ride for going south of 60th street.

    9. Stephen says:

      Minor Correction. Daylight savings time is the time change during the summer. Standard time is winter time. We are now on daylight savings time. This is a common mistake.

    10. Carol M says:

      You’re not alone when it comes to empty bike rakes. The one at the SE corner of 89th and Columbus holds 47 bikes but usually has between none and 4. I’ve watched a truck come in and load up the rake at 11 am and another comes back at 4 pm and takes them all away. Doesn’t help the commuter.

    11. Jan says:

      Bikes are an unfortunate happening it certainly has
      Lowered the quality of life in Manhattan. I still maintain
      Ultimately bikes will never coexist happily with dense NYC traffic. It’s one or the other. I wish our City planners had thought this out better. How many times a day have
      you almost been hit by a bike?

      • NO BIKE LANES says:

        If you check with the city police reports there is an average 132 Citibike accidents per week in New York. And one of the main reasons is no one uses the bike lanes it’s time to get rid of this most ridiculous idea of bike lanes – no one uses the bike lanes and no one enforces it!!
        The bikers use sidewalks and streets not the bike lanes. Take Columbus Avenue sit down on the bench and just count the bikes that use the street and sidewalks and not the bike lane. Seriously, no one uses bike lanes!!! What a waste of money, Do you hear that Governor Andrew Cuomo?????

        • Jay says:

          Making stuff up doesn’t lend well to paying attention to anything you write.

          I’d do some more research before you go spouting off about something you clearly have no idea about.

      • Woody says:

        It’s pedestrians that are more of a problem because they exist in larger numbers. Just got back from Europe where pedestrians actually walk where and cross when they’re supposed to allowing other modes of transport to function safely. You’re nothing more than a whining hypocrite unless you follow the laws that apply to you. This intense hatred for bikes in NY seems to be generated by a small group of jealous people unable to do activities that others enjoy.

      • Jay says:

        I’ve been almost hit by a lot more cars than bikes. Most of us would prefer to have more bikes than cars.

        The urban planners are making the right choice to allow more people access to roads, where there is plenty of space for cars,bike and pedestrians to co-exist. There is too much space in the city dedicated to private vehicles. It’s well past time to share.

    12. J says:

      Given the current state of the subway, subway and bus cannot count on reliable service or even count that they can squeeze into a packed subway.

      Similarly it seems, Citbike users are not “entitled” to better or more convenient bike availability.

      Funding and policy support needs to go to subways and buses first.

    13. WestSider4Life says:

      We all know the Citibikes are nuisance whether you ride them or not. What I don’t understand is why can’t they be mounted all across CPW from 59th St to 110th St on the sidewalks. No reason to make it difficult for residents on the upper west side to park. The whole agenda was to discourage drivers because guess what, there will always be more drivers than bike riders hands down. If you dock them along CPW and Riverside Drive side walks everyone will be happy.

    14. Jeff Berger says:

      Are we doing this argument again? I see that the UWS is having another in its lame installment of the “We hate Donald Trump/March for Climate” silliness again.

      You want to really help the environment, then instead of marching, DO SOMETHING. Add more bikes, build more protected bike lanes. Europe has them on highways. Why not protected bike lanes on the West and East side drives? Get rid of free street parking. Encourage more green transportation.

      But no, that won’t happen. The same biddies will complain about the Bikeamabobs and demand with no sense of irony for more places for their cars.

      Love of Cars Trumps the Environment!

      • j says:

        Jeff Berger,
        Respectfully, I recall you have often commented favorably on increasing development on the UWS.

        Development, increase in ecommerce/delivery, Uber are all contributing to an increase in vehicles and congestion. Luxury development and the concomitant luxury lifestyle is not environmentally friendly.

        Folks who really care will eliminate their Amazon, Fresh Direct ordering.
        Development should be limited.
        And resources should be going to bus and subway – not bike lanes.

    15. Kevin Schultz says:

      I honestly can’t believe there is free street parking anywhere on the UWS. Move to resident only parking permits that require proof of registration. Increase the price to market rate. Double or triple the number of Citibike stations – they’re obviously in high demand and the arguments against them today are the same ones thrown out years ago when the bikes were first introduced. We should question each and every square inch of public space that has been allocated towards subsidizing car storage in a neighborhood where only 24% of people own cars.