Bikes on the brain as cycle-share is about ready to roll

Photo by Lincoln Anderson Workers installed a large hunk of rock on Mercer St. north of Spring St. Tuesday morning to protect the new bike-share station recently sited there from oncoming car traffic.

Photo by Lincoln Anderson
Workers installed a large hunk of rock on Mercer St. north of Spring St. Tuesday morning to protect the new bike-share station recently sited there from oncoming car traffic.

Photo by Tequila Minsky This new bike-share station for 40-plus bikes on West Broadway is planted next to a strip coveted by sidewalk artists on weekends.

Photo by Tequila Minsky
This new bike-share station for 40-plus bikes on West Broadway is planted next to a strip coveted by sidewalk artists on weekends.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  New York is going completely bonkers over bike-share — and the bicycles aren’t even here yet! But the bike-station docks are, and they’re sparking a million reactions — make that 8 million — from support to opposition and, in at least one case, a lawsuit.

Residents of 99 Bank St. in the Village last week filed a lawsuit seeking the removal of a 31-bike dock in front of their building, between Greenwich and Hudson Sts. The suit charges that the bike station violates the city’s own rules for placement of street furniture. But a judge rejected the 100-unit co-op’s plea for an injunction. However, early Tuesday morning, the city gave some ground — literally — removing a four-bike segment of the dock from the end closest to the building’s entrance, and setting down a big hunk of rock in its place.

The two-wheeled tumult also steered its way straight into a plan by Community Board 2 to show an informational “Streetfilms” movie on bike-share this Thurs., May 2. Initially, the film, “Bike Share: In Action There / Launching Here,” was set to screen at N.Y.U.’s Casa Italiana — which has a capacity of 100 people — on W. 12th St., with C.B. 2 and New York University as co-sponsors. A flier the community board e-mailed out announced that state Senator Brad Hoylman would give opening remarks, and that two Department of Transportation officials would lead the presentation and discussion: Kate Fillin-Yeh and Stephanie Levinsky, the director and the planner, respectively, of the city’s bike-share program.

On Monday, however, C.B. 2 sent out another e-mail announcing that due to “an outpouring of community interest,” the venue for the May 2 “bike-share discussion” (it no longer mentioned the movie) had been switched to a larger space, P.S. 41, at 116 W. 11th St., starting at 6:30 p.m. The flier also no longer mentioned the two D.O.T. bike-share officials — and there were, in fact, reports that the pedal-pushing pair had backed out of the event, fearing having to face up to the venting by opponents who planned to attend. Hoylman also was no longer listed on the revised notice.

Tuesday evening, The Villager asked Shirley Secunda, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, about reports that the D.O.T. officials would no longer be attending.

“This was David Gruber’s call,” she said, referring to the C.B. 2 chairperson. “You’re right — it’s a completely different format now, to get public feedback.”

The following day, Secunda put out an e-mail blast telling people, “I just wanted to let you know that that program is being replaced by a forum for community input on bike-share stations, i.e., there will not be a film, nor a D.O.T. slide presentation or opening remarks by Senator Hoylman, but instead an open forum for people to come voice their concerns about bike-share, as well as their support.” (For more on the thinking behind why Thursday night’s bike-share event’s format was changed, see Editorial, Page 10.)

Meanwhile, those who make their living at the sidewalk’s edge have their own issues with the installation of the new bike-share docks. In Soho, more than 40 of the heavy-duty metal bike holders were set up on West Broadway’s east side between Spring and Prince Sts., prompting a protest from activist Robert Lederman, president of ARTIST (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics). Lederman — who has frequently sued the city on behalf of sidewalk vendors’ rights — said the bike docks will remove spots where artists vend on weekends, when they crowd West Broadway. Under city regulations for vendors and “street furniture,” the artists must set up a certain distance away from the bike station.

“At least eight artists or more would be losing these spaces,” Lederman said.

In turn, according to the city’s informational brochure on bike-share, the bike docks “must observe standard D.O.T. street furniture clearances” from such features as crosswalks, fire hydrants, bus stops, building entrances and subway entrances.

Lederman is forever battling the city’s efforts to commercialize public spaces used by art vendors. New York’s bike-share program — dubbed Citi Bike after its financer, Citibank — is merely another commercialization scheme, in his view.

“The whole thing is nothing but an ad,” he scoffed. “It’s just another example of corporate privatization of public space — moving ads, all over the city.”

Asked if he would litigate against the West Broadway bike station, Lederman said no because the sidewalk artists “don’t have standing.”

“Some store owner or landlord would have the right to sue,” he said. “That’s where I would guess the significant opposition would come from.”

Also, Lederman said, he’s too busy right now battling the Parks Department’s restrictions on artists and musicians in parks.

Similarly, some sidewalk food vendors are also being forced to vacate their usual spots by the new bike docks.

Merchants — those in storefronts — near the recently installed 42-bike station on West Broadway had mixed reactions to it this week.

Andrew Moore, owner of Stuart Moore jewelry boutique, said it seems like a good idea to him.

“I was just in Amsterdam,” he said. “They have a really nice bike-share program there. In this age of bikes, it’ll bring tourists here. It’ll be interesting.”

(He also noted he was recently in San Francisco where people are currently in an uproar over “pop-up cafes” in the streets, sometimes two or three per block.)

Moore likes the vitality of the street artists and thinks they actually might benefit from the new bike-share station.

“The bikes could bring clients to them, too,” he noted. “Let’s give it a chance — it isn’t even summer yet.”

A local gallerist, however, who requested her gallery’s name not be printed, was skeptical.

“We only got a notice a week before it was installed,” she complained of the Soho bike depot. “I think it’s highly dangerous where it’s located. It’s a busy, two-way street.”

She admitted with a laugh that she’s not much of a cyclist, though, not having ridden a bike in the past five years.

Cara Faris, a sales associate at the MO851 fashion boutique, said everyone is just watching and waiting — with some customers wondering if the bike station is an art installation.

“I think right now people are just trying to figure out when the bikes are going to show up,” she said. “Yesterday a few people came in and said, ‘What exactly is that?’ They thought it was like a sculpture or something or some sort of exhibition.”

Just as with merchants, it’s not hard to get residents to share their views on the new bike-share stations. Within just a 20-minute period early Tuesday evening The Villager found a wide range of opinions among passersby at the bike-share dock on Renwick St. at Spring St., just steps from the newspaper’s office.

Claudia Perez, 17, said she was “neutral” on the issue.

“I don’t really mind,” she said of the metallic bike corral plopped down in front of her home. She said her friends at Millennium High School aren’t really talking about bike-share.

Cristina Botero, 25, walking her dachshund, Mambo, around the block, said she’s really looking forward to the public pedaling program.

“I lived in Paris where they have a very established [bike-share] program,” she said, “and I used it every day to go to school. It’s impossible to get cabs there.”

Botero, a consultant for nonprofits, said she would use Citi Bike to go to brunch and visit museums, and also to ride on the Hudson River bikeway. A half hour pedal on the park path would be plenty, she said, when asked about the program’s time limit. Also, with bike-share there’s no fear about one’s own bike being stolen off the street, she added.

But architect Marianne Hyde, another block resident, said the bike station being stuck in front of her building — and right at the corner, no less — is a problem.

The other day, she said, a U.P.S. truck driver couldn’t make the turn onto Renwick St. and had to remove one of the bike station’s white plastic bollards. Plus, the new structure takes away residents’ ability to park their cars in front of their own building, she added. And how will the building’s garbage be picked up, she wondered, with the bike station there?

“The whole building is unhappy,” Hyde said. “It’s a narrow street — and there are three construction projects on it. This adds more complexity to the street.

“And we have several bars, Emerald Inn, Anchor Bar and Sway,” she added. “It gets crazy at night at 4 a.m. Can you imagine all the drunk people coming out and trying to bike home?”

(According to “Tipsy on Wheels,” an Aug. 7, 2010, article in The New York Times, biking under the influence is not explicitly illegal, but a drunk cyclist can be charged with reckless endangerment or public intoxication, just as a pedestrian can.)

Hyde said she definitely planned to attend Thursday’s C.B. 2 bike-share forum where people will air their concerns.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, sees another looming problem, specifically for the bike-share kiosks, where users will swipe their credit cards. He said he recently noticed the Citi Bike kiosk at the corner of LaGuardia Place and W. Third St. had been plastered with a KATSU tag, by the ubiquitous sticker fiend of the same name.

“You watch it — it’s a graffiti magnet,” Sweeney predicted of the kiosks. “Why didn’t they put above the Citi Bike logo ‘Deface Me’? — because that’s what’s going to happen.”

Sweeney also said it would have been smarter to start the bike-share program smaller, and then, based on the results, decide whether to expand it.

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40 Responses to Bikes on the brain as cycle-share is about ready to roll

  1. The 5 to 10 thousand people who have signed up and paid $95 to join probably don't have time to attend evening town halls. However the two hundred people with nothing else to do will yell loudly. I hope politicians do not listen only to the concerns of the few.

    • Ronald Sender

      Not that many people signed up – that's just a CitiBike PR fabrication. Please don't spread this misinformation.

      • I signed up on the day it was opened to the public and received a serial number in the 1900's. What basis do you have to say it's a fabrication? I guess the proof will be when the fill these racks with bikes and see if it is a success, all whining aside.

      • God, you people are like global warming deniers. Is there any evidence you'd believe?

      • Ronald, you are misinformed. The signup numbers are accurate. "Lack of demand" is not a valid basis for opposing the system.

      • I enrolled on April 26th and am member number 7019.

  2. The DOT mouthpieces regularly and loudly proclaim that DOT responds to the public.
    This time, the agency set up their usual little dog-and-pony show with their inner circle of TransAlt zealots and figured a PR film touting their program would be received with open arms at CB2.

    However, when the community learned what a disaster this program has devolved into, DOT chickens out, thumbing its nose at the community board and New York City citizens

    Can you imagine the arrogance of this agency that refuses to discuss its own pilot program and rebuffs the community board and the residents and small businesses?

    For years people have been saying that this autocratic agency treats people with contempt, derision and disdain. This decision to cancel a scheduled community board meeting proves how elitist and callous DOT has become.

    The cancellation of this public meeting proves once and for all the bankruptcy of the current DOT administration.

    • The DOT had 8 public bike share meetings in CB2. I'd hardly call them chickens.

      And CB2 invited DOT to speak at the "dog-and-pony show." It was not DOT's forum.

      Can you imagine the arrogance of people who refuse to come to one of 8 public meetings, thumbing its nose at the community board and the residents and small businesses that are looking forward to bike share?

      The SoHo Alliance treats so many people with contempt, derision, and disdain. This decision to turn a transportation forum into a public yelldown proves how elitist and callous Sean Sweeney has always been.

      The behavior of this group proves once again the bankruptcy of the current SoHo Alliance leadership.

  3. Jennie Baker

    Please, Sadik-Kahn get on your bike and ride away to South Dakota or some other far-away place. You have so damaged this city just because of your own hair-brained bike and pedestrian plaza obsessions.

    NYCDOT pretended it was soliciting community input and then the agency proceeded to install huge numbers of bike corrals by fiat with no notice to neighborhoods affected by them. No wonder the City is in an uproar. This program will surely fail because it was implemented using dictatorship methods!

  4. You know what else received taxpayer bailout money? Many American automobile companies. So please don't park your cars in SoHo if that's your objection.

    Bike share has been a huge success in Boston, DC, London, Paris, and elsewhere. It will work here, despite this initial bellyaching.

    I signed up with a membership number in the 4000's.

    • Now its at 10,000! New Yorkers love this system and all the deniers will soon go home crying!
      Go #Citibike!

  5. "The other day, she said, a U.P.S. truck driver couldn’t make the turn onto Renwick St. and had to remove one of the bike station’s white plastic bollards. Plus, the new structure takes away residents’ ability to park their cars in front of their own building, she added. And how will the building’s garbage be picked up, she wondered, with the bike station there?"

    Wait. If cars were parked here before, how is a truck's ability to change any different? It's like saying a model of a car in the place of actual cars will suddenly make it hard for trucks to turn. How do garbage men pick up trash in neighborhoods where drivers park their cars inches from each other?

    Other than the inconvenience of now having to park a little farther away, none of these arguments make any sense at all!

  6. It may be too late, but one option is to implement newer smart-lock technology. Not only is it much less expensive, it also takes up much less space and is much more flexible than the older smart-dock technology. It is also NYC technology!

    Hoboken is piloting it this summer with two NYC companies Bike and Roll and SoBi:

  7. Here is Wall Street Journal link from today to newer (and NYC) smart-lock bikeshare technology:

    Less expensive, less intrusive, more flexible…. Seems like this would address many concerns.

    • Jennie Baker

      Wow! What a great alternative to the clunky, space-hogging CitiBike share program. This program would not involve ruining neighborhoods with hundreds of huge bike docks.

      After the Citibike program falls through, perhaps this could be considered.

    • Curious where thousands of bikeshare bikes using a system in New York like the one you suggest would be parked? There's hardly enough bike parking for private bikes as it is in New York. It would require adding thousands of bike racks… which would end up in the very same places the Citbike racks are being placed.

      Your suggestion will work in Hoboken because it's Hoboken. Hoboken is small, and the system will be, too. New York is a different animal.

    • This kind of system doesn't work that well because no one is certain were the bikes are all the time. They move a lot. With Citi bike you know where a station is 100% of the time. Also this system will be run privately so many business believe this will work because they expect to make a profit of it. The system in DC, which has no sponsorship, is currently making a payback of 97% and will soon go into a profit. There is very low reliability in the system you propose and very little customer appeal in it. If the system you propose was actually feasible then private business's would have done it by now.

  8. Make no mistake about it. There are three bike advocacy groups, Transportation Alternatives, Streetsblog, and Transportation Nation, along with DOT that have pushed for citibike and TA has used itssites to mobilize itssupporters to attend all the community meetings that involve all bike issues especially the Citibike initiative. TA sends out alerts to their members to attend these meetings. . I attended a Community Board 2 full board meeting last month and all the public comments about the bike share were overwhelming negative from the residents and business owners of the community. Don't be surprised if many of the militant bike advocates who attend these meetings don't even live in the neighborhoods that must deal with this disruption. The DOT is not responsive. Make your feelings known to Citibank that put $42 million behind this corporate campaign. The supporters of citibike are much more organized but they only represent themselves and their own interests. You represent your community.

    • Thank you so much for your astute comments. They will be very helpful to those who are uncomfortable with the dictatorship of The People’s Republic of the NYCDOT. Thank you also for empathizing with the plight of all the many neighborhoods that will have to suffer from the huge bike corral monstrosities

      info and for empathy

    • StuckInThePast

      You tell 'em, Sean! You've done a great job protecting Soho's art culture from the intrusion of tourists, chain retail, and piles of trash blowing down Broadway! Heck, looking up Prince and Broadway, there's hardly even a peddler in sight!

      • Whatever happened to the Prince Street Pedestrian Plaza, Pop-up Cafes, GreenWave and BikeCorrals thatDOT and the TA/Streetsblog weasels tried to ram down SoHo's throat?

        Victory is So Sweet!


    • Sean, you are adorable.

    • Alan, You have that 100% correct.

      At least three of the shills here are regular commenters on various cycling extremist blogs and organization that you mention: JarekAF, Ddartley, StuckInThePast.

      You are also correct that none of them live within CB2 – or even Manhattan

      This is so characteristically twisted of these cultists, commenting and recommending on our issues as if they were our neighbors, when they are in fact a Trojan horse for the DOT.

      • Hey SoHoer,
        Signs…dialogue…reasoning..meetings. Bah!
        I was born in Brooklyn…not the media label "new" Brooklyn on the Hipster L express. But the real Brooklyn of Bath Beach and Gravesned where if some outsider came around to mess with your block they would grab the poor schmuck off the street, throw him into the trunk of a cadillac, drive around for a couple of hours, and let him out near some refinery on the Jersey side of the Goethals bridge. Discussion over.

        • LOL

          Better yet, drive these TA shills back home to Smallville, so they can cycle on their parents' cul-de-sac to their hearts' content.

  9. Furthermore, it is disturbing to note that on Streetsblog quite a few of the posts from bike riders discuss how annoying it is to stop; whether that involves red lights it stop signs. They don’t see why they can’t zoom thru Red lights if there isn’t much traffic. They demonstrate over and over again fundamental disdain for cars ad pedestrians alike I imagine them to be like lean-mean Lance Armstrong driving machines. God help us from these militant bikers

    • And if DOT believes that cyclists can coexist with vehicles in unprotected bike lanes why are they putting barriers to protect the bike docks that are sharing the road with motorists. Because flesh is cheap and they are worried about their investment. Stationary bikes rate protection but the riding public is fooled into thinking it is safe even though we know who loses in the battle between flesh and steel. I wouldn't let my daughter or mother ride on city streets. And If you do make sure their health care proxy is up to date.

    • They don't see why they can't zoom thru Red lights if there isn't much traffic.

      Yah, I'm one of those people. But I never "zoom" through a Red Light. If I'm at 7th and B, I'll yield, look both ways and yes run the red light. Should I hop off and jay walk it? The important thing is that I ride safely and respectfully.

      I hate reckless bike riders as much as you. But let's not kid ourselves by pretending that every single biker needs to stop for the full duration of every single red light in NYC for them to be safe. If there are a lot of peds, then I won't run the red light.

  10. I'm curious: WAS THERE any public art going on in Petrosino Square BEFORE two bike racks got put there? If not, then bike share is GOOD for public art. Also, now that the racks are there, strangely there still is room for this woman to do her ten days of dancing.

    • I think the bike share station look great! way better then a bunch of ugly parked cars!
      I can't wait for this system to launch!

  11. Taxpayers indeed will end up on the hook for this, to pay off Goldman Sachs' $41 million loan to Citi Bike. Perhaps Bloomberg will step in and pay it from his own pocket, if he believes so strongly in bike share?

    • Huh? There is no $41M loan to Citi Bikes. Goldman Sachs isn't involved.

      Citi Bank is spending $41M to sponsor the program. Altabikes operates Citi Bikes. They are separate.

      Taxpayers are not paying for this program

      • Jennie Baker

        They will have to once the program runs into problems, as had happened in Montreal.

        So this program won't only be costing us in terms of neighborhoods blighted by huge grey bike corrals, thousands of new chaotic bike-riders, and pedestrian accidents, but also the City will have to dig deep into their pockets when the program falls on hard times.

      • No doubt it wasn't covered in Streetsblog, but the Finanicial Times had an article about GS's loan on December 16, 2012.

        "Goldman Sachs has quietly loaned $41m to help finance the start of New York City’s much anticipated, and long-delayed, bike-sharing programme. While Citigroup is paying $41m over five years to sponsor the project and has thousands of rental bicycles branded with its name, Goldman’s role in the programme has until now remained behind the scenes. The bank’s $41m loan is being used as the seed financing needed to get the project off the ground…."

  12. TA members display robotic following of programmed script that they cannot depart from in the face of DOT's misplaced bike rack siting installations. Anyone who attended CB2's Thursday session would have heard almost unanimous criticism of rack placements but general support of biking.

    Its the disconnect between biking as a policy versus bike rack placement as a site specific hindrance to daily life in the neighborhoods that DOT & TA has failed to comprehend. The CB2 meeting served to convey the overwhelming complaints from residents of the neighborhoods impacted by the racks as to how to they disrupt simple acts of daily life such as just getting access to their buildings or shops along with City garbage pickup. DOT planners must learn to understand and address daily street life in NYC before they start drawing lines on paper that neither work nor advance the expansion of biking.

  13. I would bet that the NYC bike promotions groups like TA, and Streetsblog are receiving lots of money from Citi to push the program. Has anybody thought to investigate this? They are trying to come across as just simple NYC bikers, but maybe there is more to the story…

    wish the NYC media would pick-up on this

  14. This is a plan that sounded good on paper, but when I actualy saw these UGLY racks lined up
    on the streets of historic Greenwich Village, I was appalled. Not only is the siting ill conceived
    - I saw many blocked doorways, which creates safety hazards- but these racks do not conform to
    the historic character of the neighborhood. Why was that UGLY modern design allowed? This plan
    needs to be rethought on many levels.

  15. Wow some of you are unreal!

    Your moaning about a new transportation option in a city where most people don't own cars, and even fewer drive into the core with one. Priorities!

    Fortunately most New Yorkers support bike share, and why wouldn't they? They don't drive and people are sick and tired of aggressive drivers, operating in a manner that can cause serious injuries or fatalities.

    We need more bike share coverage, bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, traffic islands, speed humps, curb extensions, bus bulbs, bus lanes, ect.

    Your gripes are petty, CitiBike is going to prove very useful. Especially once it makes it's way uptown. I can't wait to be able to bike crosstown through Harlem, the Bronx and Washington Heights as it stands now, I have to pay a 15-20 cab fare. How about Ave D to the 6! No need to wait on the L with a CitiBike. Takes about 15 minutes to bike across Manhattan at it's widest points at an average speed, imagine traveling from the LES to the Hudson Yards area, PITA! There are other useful connections too, like out in East Queens, last stop on the 7 and your trying to visit a bud at College Point.

    It's good for New York!

  16. Hey, are you on Citi's payroll for PR? Certainly sounds like it.

    If you 'couldn't wait' to bike crosstown why don't you already have your own bike? Keep on with the propaganda- we'll soon see what ordinary New Yorkers think of the program as more bike corrals are installed overnight and thousands of wayward bikers crowd Manhattan

  17. Manhattan should not be car free. Not everyone is a bike-freak. And how about delivery trucks? Do you want Manhattan to be bereft of all sorts of businesses from restaurants, to clothes shops, etc.?

    Please wake up from your silly vision of a bike utopia….

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