Biking has grown in considerable popularity in the city in recent years as an alternative to ailing mass transit and polluting and street-clogging cars. Because bikes can cost money and require some space to store, which can be a problem in tiny New York apartments, bike share programs have seen success, particularly Citi Bike. Citi Bike thinks the program has worked so well this far that it just announced it will triple the bicycles it will make available in the city, implementing these extra bikes during the next five years, according to NBC New York.
NBC New York reports that Citi Bike offers 12,000 bikes already, with the expansion bringing that number up to around 40,000 bikes. The increase will cost Lyft, the company that owns Citi Bike, about $100 million, with a doubling of the service area planned to in order to better address the needs of the outer boroughs.
Areas of Queens and Brooklyn in particular are considered transit deserts, areas that lack feasible mass transit options. Other than an occasional select bus service route, there aren’t many bus improvements being considered at the moment, and rail isn’t expanding anytime soon in the outer boroughs. These transit deserts provide an opportunity for bike share companies like Citi Bike. Riders may not even be commuting all the way into Manhattan but may instead be riding a few miles to a nearby neighborhood instead of driving or taking a car service.
“We’re expanding to more neighborhoods outside Manhattan to be able to achieve the equity goals of the system,” Caroline Samponaro of Lyft said to Wired. She is in charge of policy that involves pedestrians and faster moving traffic like bicycles. She went on to say that the expansion goes beyond just physically providing low-income and overlooked neighborhoods with bikes and a way to get around better. The company will also reach out and build relationships with the communities and promote better and safer cycling.
Citi Bike wants to make sure the public doesn’t associate the bikes with wealthier neighborhoods and clientele, which is where the bikes can most often be found. Even though Citi Bike has a program to help people who don’t make a lot of money afford to ride the bikes, the majority of users are still richer and whiter compared to the rest of the city’s population as a whole, Wired reports.
Wired also reports that the expansion may be good business for Citi Bikes but could shut the door on future opportunities for other bike share companies like Lime and Jump, the latter which is owned by Uber. Lime has seen successes up in the Bronx, where its bikes can be seen sitting along the greenway in Van Cortlandt Park and all the way through lower Westchester County, ready for any paying customer to hop on and ride.
“The City should work with all parties to ensure access to everyone who wants to ride a bike to get around their communities—not one company which has long left outer borough New Yorkers stranded,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson said Jump was ready to deploy as many as 20,000 ebikes in the outer boroughs.
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