There Were Just 6 Citi Bikes on the Upper West Side At Rush Hour; ‘Not a Viable Transportation Option’

Citi Bikes were few and far between on Monday morning at 8:37 a.m., as seen in this screenshot from Upper West Sider Joe Gall.

Citi Bike has had this problem before — with bikes disappearing from the neighborhood at rush hour. But it’s been working on “rebalancing” the bike stations, trucking bikes from high-density to low-density areas as needed.

Gall says that Citi Bike has indeed gotten better about rebalancing in recent weeks, but that Monday was a total desert. “Not a viable transportation option if it isn’t reliable,” he wrote on Twitter.

Citi Bike responded to him on Twitter by saying “We are working hard to increase service and improve bike availability for our riders.” They did not respond to our request for further comment.

NEWS | 72 comments | permalink
    1. Keith Schwebel says:

      Citi Bike has been saying “We are working hard to increase service and improve bike availability for our riders.” for months but nothing happens. It just get’s worse and worse.

      Does Citi Bike have any contractual requirement to rebalance within a certain time frame?

    2. lyft stinks says:

      Unfortunately, this happens all the time! I’ve emailed their customer service but since Lyft took over, they have automated responses saying “If there are no bikes available at the station you’d like to use, you can find nearby stations with bikes on the System Map, download the app, or visit our interactive kiosks.” – very helpful when the closest station with bikes is miles away

    3. Elana says:

      I’m so glad you’re running this story! This is often my experience from 7AM on and whenever I contact Citibike they are completely unconcerned.

    4. Jim says:

      Zero bikes is the typical situation for my neighborhood. CB7 caved to pressure from the NIMBY’s and allocated a ridiculously small number of racks on the UWS. There are virtually no racks between 97th and 109th Street.

      • Dolores Del Rio says:

        Oh there are plenty of bike racks — but they are all empty!

      • Eric says:

        Jim writes … “There are virtually no racks between 97th and 109th Street.”

        There are at least 11 racks between those streets.

    5. Mark Smith says:

      Citi Bikes has been saying that from it’s inception.
      I’ve been a member from the beginning, and have logged complaints about bike scarcity on UWS for almost as long.
      UWS is clearly NOT a priority for them. I’m seriously considering canceling my membership because of this issue…and only because of this issue!
      MCS @ 104th

    6. Mark Moore says:

      The Citibike station across the street from my building used to be empty 90 percent of the time. Now it’s only empty around 70 percent of the time.

    7. Trish says:

      Definitely my experience too! It’s so annoying when the one bike left turns out to be broken – or is being pedaled away by another customer just as you arrive breathless and sweaty after sprinting all the way from the office.

      • Totally real citi bike rep says:

        We at Citi Bikes are proud of our 300% improvement in your area. We are working hard to keep you guessing about bike availability. Your mind deserves the same exercise as your body.

        • ScooterStan says:

          DELIGHTFULLY CLEVER AND SOPHISTICATED !!

        • Kenneth Gray says:

          I’m a Bike Angel, and the incentive points to move bikes to the Upper West Side are insufficient. If you double the point values north of 72nd Street, you’ll get more bikes rebalanced.

    8. MJ says:

      I’ve also noticed station issues become more frequent on the UWS. In 2019 I’ve had issues at least 4 issues where the station either would not accept my bike or, accepted my bike but did update my rider status to note that the bike was dropped off. Thus, I often have to call customer service and confirm that it’s “the station and not me.”

    9. Fran says:

      Yo! It’s not a viable transportation option because it’s too
      dangerous. 20 deaths since Jan 1, ’19
      Does Citibike have any contractural requirement to compensate a rider in case of death, dismemberment, or
      injury?
      Get real.. By now, it is apparent biking should not be increased, clearly it is not working, is not safe, and should be
      shut down. New York is a walking/subway city.!!!

      • Dolores Del Rio says:

        Nearly all of those bike deaths occurred in Brooklyn and Queens, were there are far fewer bike lanes

      • UWSreader says:

        More pedestrians get killed by cars than bikers, does that mean we shouldn’t walk or bike? I am glad that people have generally rejected the view that if something is currently dangerous, give up on it instead of making it safer. After the first few plane crashes it would have been a shame if everyone collectively threw their hands up and said, “This is a rail country, planes are too dangerous!” instead of finding ways to make air travel safer.

    10. Hambone says:

      I believe it was a month or so ago that someone tried to declare in the comments that Citibike was not being utilized. Here is proof positive that people want it and use it. In just three days this weekend I logged 12 miles on 8 trips. Besides staying fit, I saved myself probably $150 in taxi fare. Citibike is often hard to get on the UWS midweek and midday….expand it!

      • David S says:

        “…this weekend I logged 12 miles on 8 trips”.

        That’s a mile and a half per trip. Have you considered just walking for such a short distance? You’d save money, get all the health benefits of biking, not endanger anyone else, and save yourself the stress of looking for a bike.

        • mrsbrady says:

          Narrow-minded comment. Some people have knee issues that are exacerbated by walking, but not by biking. I citibike to my grocery store three short blocks away because of this. Using citibike and buying my own personal bike have saved me from having to utilize one of my other (not exactly viable) options, which are driving everywhere or moving out of the city.

    11. Jim says:

      I have found CitiBike availability on weekday mornings to be markedly improved over the past month or two. But today was indeed quite bad. For what it’s worth, though, there were around 12 bikes at CPW and 72nd at 9:30am, so I think they at least did some rebalancing. Hopefully the upcoming influx of bikes will help the situation. (Also, are electric bikes ever coming back?)

    12. IndependentRider says:

      Get your own bike. Then all of these worries will go away.

      • Carnival Canticle says:

        Agree. If you want to experience the questionable joys of riding in city traffic, what’s the point of spending $169 per year on CitiBike (the figure on their current Web site) and stressing out daily about availability when you can buy a basic commuter bike for about $200 and have it at your disposal for years. (Live in a small apartment? Hang it from the ceiling.) Truly, just because the technology exists doesn’t mean that everything in life has to be done digitally.

        • Dolores Del Rio says:

          The bike you buy will be stolen. That’s why

        • stu says:

          Because you dont always want to be tethered to the bike – thats why. There are plenty of times I will take a bike one way, but could not ride back for whatever reason. The purpose of Citibike is to give you flexibility. That you can ride, when you need it. Problem is there are never bikes available when you need them!

        • Woody says:

          People don’t necessarily want to use a bike for every segment they travel during the day. Citibike provides that flexibility.

      • Dolores Del Rio says:

        I had my own bike. It was stolen in broad daylight on a busy street by someone who clipped right through my lock and rode off. Was parked for less than an hour. Citibike is a godsend, when available as promised.

        • Ramrod says:

          What kind of lock did you use? I love people who lock up a bike with a $5 lock and then complain when it gets stolen. I’ve been riding my bike up and down the UWS and all over Manhattan daily at least 10 months of the year for the last 5 years using a kryptonite lock to lock it and I still have the same bike.

    13. J says:

      On a related topic, not unusual for bus riders to wait 20 minutes or more for a bus – M104, M11 etc.

      There needs to be more bus and subway mass transit

      • MB/UWSer says:

        Ditto!

        The BIGGER picture of reliable and effective transportation needs to be considered: affordability, all people, all ages, and physical conditions/mobility. Did I say reliable?

        And by the way, there are some younger people who prefer mass transit rather than risk their life riding a bicycle on the streets of NYC!

      • Bus Ryder says:

        Re: “wait 20 minutes or more for a bus – M104, M11 etc.”

        And don’t ferget “Old Pokey”…the M57.

        As for the M11, it runs downtown on 9th Ave and uptown on 10th Ave., where it is often stuck in traffic snags caused by suburbanites heading for The Lincoln Tunnel. This is especially true on the uptown run near Hudson Yards and even worse in the Times Square area.

        These city-shunners clog our streets but haven’t had to pay a modest (.45%) Commuter Tax since 1999, when Albany, toadying-up to the suburban-voter crowd, forced NYC to cancel that source of revenue.

        According to a 2017 NYTimes editorial, that tax would have added $922M to our city’s revenue.

        Maybe it IS time for “Home-Rule”

        • Stuart says:

          Bring back the NYC non-resident withholding tax. Employees who work in the five boroughs and take advantage of city services, but live in the suburbs, should have to pay for this privilege.

          • sru says:

            What city services? They pay (plenty) to the MTA and Port Authority for transportation. Then they leave. And they pay plenty to NYS in taxes – both income and sales (as they certainly support our economy by shopping here).

            • Stuart says:

              The non-residents are using the following services:

              Sanitation – they throw out the remains of their lunch.

              Police – who they call when their wallet gets stolen.

              Fire / EMS – my ex-brother-in-law had a fatal heart attack in the lobby of his office building.

              If it happens in Manhattan, should they call Nassau or Westchester County to resolve their problem? Of course not, which is why non-residents should pay for NYC services.

    14. Leon says:

      Would Citibike users be willing to pay slightly more to have a higher likelihood of there being bikes available? Because that might be what it takes for them to hire more people to relocate bikes more often.

      In the summertime, when usage is likely highest, one would think that helping to relocate bikes would be a good summer job for high school kids – have a licensed adult as the driver and a kid quickly hopping on and off the vans, loading and unloading bikes.

      • mamaebbes says:

        Not quite sure I understand. I buy a Citibike membership, there are never any bikes available at the 2 racks closest to where I drop my kids off at school to head to work, and now I should pay more to have bikes available?

    15. Chris Gentile says:

      Citibikes not a viable transportation option yet let’s take away all the parking to accommodate “all the bikes on CPW.”

      • Woody says:

        There are far more privately-owned bikes than Citibikes. Nice try.

      • uwser says:

        What? Too many people are using it, if anything that means there should be more citi bikes.

        That’s like saying “there’s too much traffic to be a viable option, why do we need roads”

      • Rammy says:

        Exactly. Because there are far more people cycling than people are willing to admit. This proves it.

    16. Mark P says:

      Sorry, but it’s not reasonable to expect there to be bikes at 8:37am on a beautifully cool and bright Monday morning. This isn’t a rebalancing problem. It’s a demand vs supply problem.

      You got going too late when everyone else had the same idea. All those bikes moved across town. Imagine the hue and cry if they were rebalanced up (if it were even possible to get significant quantities back uptown by 9am) It’s 6:37pm and there are no bikes to go back to the Upper West Side!!!

      Sure, I’d love it if there were bikes available later. But I know I can’t “depend” on Citibike to be available when I want it. I grabbed a bike myself today 7:56am and felt lucky – usually I’m trying for 7:30 or 7:45. Yes, I had to visit a further away station. That’s just the way it is until we commit the resources to expand the system. You know – kinda like the massive subsidies that support those cheap ferry rides that serve far fewer people?

    17. Paul on W 67th says:

      I’m not so sure there were no bikes, but rather a systems problem.

      I picked up a bike at 67th and Broadway at 7:15 and dropped it at 28th and 10th about 20 minutes later. Then I walked the High Line and picked up another bike at 8:02 at 15th and 10th and dropped it at Union Square maybe 10 minutes later.

      Although the bike locked successfully, it did not register on the app. There was actually a very helpful young man with a Citibike vest who told me that the system was probably not communicating properly and suggested I take a photo of the docked bike in case of a problem.

      The system must’ve updated at some point because I am able to rent another bike, but that second rental is still not showing an ‘in’ time, just the ‘out’ time at 8:02.

      • Ramrod48 says:

        That’s happened to me twice. Hours later when i got the notification from them that I hadn’t returned my bike, I panicked and went back to the station thinking I incorrectly docked it. Horrible feeling thinking you’re on the hook for a $1300 Citibike and then to find out it’s because of a technical glitch/communication issue. I learned my lesson, though. Now when I dock a bike, I don’t leave the station without checking my phone for the docked bike notification, or checking the app if the notification doesn’t come right away.

    18. Alistair Lowe says:

      I’m a Citibiker, and used to use the equivalent in Boston. Thoughts:
      1) NY is inherently harder as there is not a natural flow
      – in Boston, I would arrive at South Station (thing Grand Cetral) and would take a bike to ride to Cambridge, and other people would be riding from Cambridge or Back Bay to South Station, and others from South Station to Back Bay as office and residential were more mixed
      2) It’s the early bird that gets the worm – I never have a problem from UWS in am – more a problem getting one after 530pm near Grand Central
      3) But yes – Citibike needs to shuttle bikes in am and pm more. And spread them out. Once watched them offload 40 in one station near my home at 530pm. Next one was empty.

    19. Paul says:

      Was Citibike really supposed to be a means of commuting? Really?
      If so, why weren’t surveys done to determine the necessary numbers so that intelligent decisions could have been made?

      And if you want to to commute by bike, buy a bike!

    20. L krantz says:

      Hopefully no bikes means lives saved!! I drove my car into the city today. Driving south on 5th Ave, a biker was pedaling north in the street against traffic! Then on west 83rd street a biker was pedaling right down the middle of the street! And on west 84th street, traffic was stopped for a light and a biker was weaving around and through the stopped cars. I feel for those bikers that have lost their lives or been injured but one wonders how they were using their bikes. Too many don’t obey the traffic patterns or laws. Be more careful…bikes will always lose against cars and trucks.

      • UWSmama says:

        Please stop blaming bikers. Today during my Citibike ride up Central Park West, in a 20 block span, 5 cars pulled over illegally in the bike lane. The CPW protected bike lane can’t come soon enough.

        • Ramrod48 says:

          I feel your pain. I ride CPW daily and the complete disregard drivers have for the cyclists riding in the bike line is maddening! Besides having to constantly maneuver around cars parked in the bike lane, I get cut off by drivers who refuse to wait two seconds for me to pass before they make their turn. And I’m talking about right AND left hand turns. It’s cars going both directions! Total disregard. They view cyclists as objects they can haphazardly navigate around instead of actual human beings they risk injuring or killing.

      • Deb says:

        This is why cyclists need to be tested, licensed, registered, insured, and ticketed.

        And please, everyone, stop the nonsensical comparison about how well biking works in Amsterdam. The city of Amsterdam has less than a million people – big freakin’ difference…

      • Jon says:

        Biking down the middle of the street (with traffic, not against) is probably the safest way to go if the street is narrow, with no bike lane, and has parking on both sides.

      • Upper West Side Martha says:

        Not only are they going the wrong way, but they are recklessly speeding around corners when pedestrians are crossing the street on green lights. I know, I was a whisker away from being hit from the side from a speeding demon I never saw coming.

    21. Eli says:

      Yep, this is why I went out and bought a bicycle despite not having a lot of space to store it. Too many wasted mornings trying to get a bike and coming back empty handed. Cancelled my membership after a few short months.

    22. Derek says:

      Have the same problem. Hoping citibike sees this!

    23. David Morris says:

      Rebalancing requires “trucking” bikes from one location to another? Seems to defeat a major purpose of the bikes in the first place.

    24. Jane says:

      The dearth of bikes on the UWS is a problem all day long, and it has been that way since bikes came uptown. Citi Bike claims, for years now, that it is “working on rebalancing” – but clearly their efforts (if any) have not been successful. If you need to walk more than 10 blocks – or take public transportation to find a bike, obviously they need to work harder to solve the problem.

    25. Big Earl says:

      At least there are now 3 bike lanes between Amsterdam Ave and CPW. Glad to know they aren’t going to good use except for the delivery guys as well as, motorized scooters, motorized skateboards and electric uni-wheels. What a complete and utter waste. The idealistic dream one day New York will be bike friendly like Amsterdam is a complete pipe dream. Wake up this is New York City. Sadly, we lost another pedestrian after he was run over after stepping into a bike lane. Why don’t we hear an outcry about his life taken by cyclists who are more dangerous than cars. Now we get to watch the pedestrian death toll climb. Yeah bike lanes. NOT!

    26. Jess says:

      I rarely see any bikes at the location bet 73/74 on Amsterdam at any time of the day or night/weekend or weekday. Just a homeless guy who has set up his (very extensive) home next to the empty rack.

    27. GrumpyOldMan says:

      Who cares?

    28. stu says:

      This has been a problem for years. It is also impossible to get a bike at Penn Station after 7:30 AM. Similar issue – too much demand. I have called Citibike many times, and they are of no help. I dont expect a bike right near me at all times; I get that. But after 8AM, it is usually empty from 60th to 110th – insane.

      What they need to do is (a) have a truck situated at a central point – say 86th street – filled with bikes and offer “valet” service and/or (b) reallocate over night and fill the demand locations. There is no reason that all the Harlem docks should be filled in the AM, when folks arent commuting from there and using those bikes at those times.

    29. Natalia says:

      They need a crew of ppl with cargo ebikes that can move bikes from midtown to the desert zones…

    30. Chris says:

      One word: Brompton.

    31. Saul Kaiserman says:

      I wrote to citibike several times about this issue. Before it was owned by Lyft they would sometime offer credits, like a free month. Lyft would not, so I cancelled my membership and now only pay the 3 bucks when there’s an available bike.

    32. Diane says:

      Even at 11am there were no bikes available between 96th and 116th streets. So can’t blame it on rush hour. I’ve written many times too. So frustrating!

    33. Mike says:

      I citibike most everyday from 96th street. Mondays are the hardest day to get a bike… Something about the weekend has all the bikes migrate downtown on Sundays. Most other weekdays are doable but still by 8:30 it’s hard if the weather is good. By 9 am forget it.

    34. Edward N. says:

      Citibike is full of crap. This is a 7 day a week problem on the UWS. Try getting a bike EVER around Columbia.

      Citibike needs to decide what their model is: catering to tourists in Central Park by staging scores of bikes at Grand Army Plaza or actually serving the needs of New York’s cyclists. Right now they are failing native New Yorkers.

      • Leah Rozen says:

        Actually, Citibike’s original hoped for economic model was based on tourists using the bikes for the expensive hourly and day rates. There was more money to be made that way than on annual NYC subscribers using the bikes multiple times a day to ride a few blocks here and a few blocks there on a commute or errand. Hence the continual price hikes on the annual rate.

    35. Julie says:

      I love citi bike. It’s brought so much pleasure into my day, eased the stress to my body by not walking as much and given me more control over my schedule. I use it to get to and fro, but not to commute as it’s too far biking from UWS to Wall St. I’m also a bike angel which, as suggested already, would be a good way to encourage the supply/demand issue. I’m sorry to hear this is not working for so many during rush hour. A city our size makes it challenging but there’s always room for improvements.

    36. stu says:

      Another point: CitiBike creatively attempted to address the reallocation issue by instituting the Bike Angel program. Unfortunately the program has become simply a game for a select number to try to rack up points and earn free membership. These folks (one of whom I spoke to) literally rides around at least an hour a day from dock to dock in order to earn points. It contributes nothing to the actual needed reallocation.

    37. RK says:

      I used the bike share extensively in London and there were the exact same issues – and stations are much farther apart. Nature of the beast. It’s not viable as a dependable commuting option. More people fit on one subway train than the entire number of docks on the UWS. Do the math.

    38. B.B. says:

      Citibike cannot expand without claiming more UWS real estate. You’ve only to read the heated and downright often nasty remarks about bike lanes made on WSR and elsewhere to see how that could be a problem.

      In addition to spaces along CPW, Citibike has stations on side streets off that avenue, 72nd and elsewhere from 57th to Harlem.

      While certain people would love to see entire blocks given over to Citibike docking stations, that just isn’t going to happen. More so now that local CB has given green light to that new CPW bike lane removing > 400 parking spots.