Bike-share sites could have been a win-win, but alas


BY DAVID GRUBER and COREY JOHNSON  |  Let’s start with the obvious: We support the bike-share program. Our respective community boards wrote resolutions that said just that. There was outreach, but it was not done well and there wasn’t enough of it.

Most residents did not know about the details of the program or maybe didn’t focus on the public meetings that took place more than a year ago. Many people went to the see the sample bike docks in wide-open areas, like Washington Square Park and Matthew Palmer Playground, and saw a four- or five-bike installation and likely left saying, “This seems O.K.”

This lack of true understanding is both a discredit to the residents of New York City’s hundreds of neighborhoods as well as the New York City Department of Transportation itself. Folks were left completely unprepared for the size and bulk of the racks — 30, 40 or 50 in a solid wall. They were unimaginably placed with almost total disregard for any other city operational needs in many instances.

The location of these large stations are already having detrimental and potentially dangerous consequences — such as blocking essential services for garbage collection, building entries and Access-A-Ride services. They create impossible situations for moving vans and delivery vehicles, creating dangerous turning radii by extending the dock corner-to-corner on narrow blocks. In one location docks were put in a designated spot held by another city agency for an outdoor arts program.

The stations have been placed on small, historic Village streets that don’t even allow car parking, or on very intense commercials streets, where bikes must be extracted from the docks directly into heavy traffic. We can go on ad nauseam except we are getting nauseous.

The Department of Transportation has trumpeted the reaction in London, saying that residents will “hate you for six months and then they will love the program.” Maybe that’s true, maybe not. Perhaps in London they were more sensitive and flexible in their dock-station placements from the start. That statement is very insulting to local residents and neighborhoods. It says, ignore the criticism because it is simply NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard).

We don’t know how well they positioned the bike racks in London or Paris or Amsterdam or Montreal, but those cities have seemingly integrated their respective bike-share programs into the fabric of each city.

Additionally, many of these cities have a real “stop for red lights and pedestrians” culture, and we would wager that the vast majority of cyclists in these cities obey traffic rules, which still isn’t the norm in New York.

D.O.T. is saying, let the stations be in place for six months and then let’s evaluate the effects. While a few of the docks have been removed, there has been, for the most part, a refusal to respond to many legitimate complaints voiced by community leaders, elected officials and everyday New Yorkers. It feels like the program has been driven to be implemented — good, bad or dangerous — since the stations starting popping up on our blocks.

Six months won’t remedy a poor placement decision — it will just make a bad situation six months worse.

And here is the kicker. With a little juggling and tweaking all the docking stations (in the critical-mass numbers needed to have a successful program) could be placed in locations that actually make sense. Almost everyone at the very well-attended recent Community Board 2 forum said, “I support bike-share,” and then followed up by pleading for the city to work with them to achieve smarter, more nimble and appropriate locations. Not everybody is a NIMBYist. Some New Yorkers are just smart, concerned citizens who simply want their government to listen and really hear them — you know, it’s called participatory democracy.

As the New York City garment industry proverb goes: Measure 10 times, then cut just once. Evaluation and greater community engagement must occur each step along the way. We welcome this innovative program to the streets of New York, but D.O.T. must listen to affected communities, give residents a voice in shaping the implementation, and not worry about an artificial legacy  timetable.

We are told the bike-share program has been designed to be easily moved and adjusted, so let’s do just that. Let’s work together to ensure that this program is integrated into our neighborhoods appropriately. Only then will it become right-sized and a win-win for New York City.


Gruber is chairperson, Community Board 2; Johnson is chairperson, Community Board 4

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38 Responses to Bike-share sites could have been a win-win, but alas

  1. Let's stay friendly and give this a shot. We lucky enough to live in one of the most innovative, beautiful cities in the world.

    We don't have the time or the need to so closely study every single project our elected officials try. Let's let them innovate and optimize as this project builds, as we do in the business world.

  2. The one on East 11th Street is in front of the elementary school, where already the kids are just sitting on the bikes and enjoying the stationary ride. oh well. Tomorrow these bikes are surely to be vandalized. Also, we have a theater company and will not be able to unload our sets or props in any easy fashion now, on East 4th Street. Poor placement indeed. Lets rethink this.

    • Were there cars on this street before? If so I'm just curious as to how a bike share station will make it harder to unload sets and props than parked cars used to.

  3. YES and here on John Street in FIDI – a narrow street to begin with – the bike rack has narrowed the street it seems and traffic jams are clearly going to happen even more so now. Why is it so difficult and too much to ask that our well paid and 'high perk' elected officials use common sense? I am certain 5th graders could have done a more comprehensive and thoughtful job placing these racks.

    • Were there cars on this street before? If so I'm just curious as to how a bike share station narrowed the street more than the parked cars used to.


  4. I too live on John Street and I love the new Bike Racks. It is utter nonsense to say they have narrowed the street. They take up less room that the cars that used to park there. It doesn't help your argument when you don't have actual facts. Let's all give this a chance to work. Thank goodness the people who actually do things in this city aren't all a bunch of whiners. Otherwise nothing would ever get done because you could never please all of the complainers.

  5. NOBODY is saying not to give this a chance. What we ARE saying is that we the people would like to have more consideration given to our daily needs. A LOT of parking places have been lost which means driving around for another half an hour than usual looking for a place. When an ambulance can't get to someone elderly in the throes of a heart attack because of these bike racks, somebody did NOT do their homework. But most of all? I resent the hell out of them putting these racks up in the dead of night. What the heck was that about?

    • The less cars on the street, the quicker ALL first responders can get where they need to go, bike-share needs to grow. Every single person complaining could have gone to, and contributed to, the meetings and forums which have been happening for two years now. This is the essential problem with the Village these days. Everyone wants good things, but no one wants to actually have them affect their little block or slice of paradise in any manner whatsoever. Always waiting until well after processes have begun and are near completion to weigh in with the usual invective.

      Talking the bike racks to death would have meant never getting this important, environmentally sound initiative at all. Now they're in and the tweaking can begin, that how it has to work these days, or it doesn't happen at all. Sad to say that this type of talking good things to their death will probably mean the destruction of Pier 40, because a small number of petty and selfish people have taken it upon themselves to stop the good things along with the bad, all the while offering no viable alternatives or solutions. Opposing everything, means not getting the good things done either, and that, is where Greenwich Village is presently.

      Captive to those who oppose all change, good change, as well as bad, because they have some narrow view of an ages old Greenwich Village which never alters, never matures, and never changes from their own personal and selfish version of Village nostalgia. Which is never allowed to brush up against them, ever again, once they have their perfect little townhouse or rent control apartment. Fighting conservancies and trusts, without taking on the much harder work of making our Assemblywoman put up or shut up when it comes to forcing Sheldon Silver to use our tax dollars for Pier 40, rather than for covering up sexual scandal.

      Right now, Villagers, we are allowing ourselves to remain trapped in the status quo, by our neighbors, and our corrupt (Silver) and captive/ineffective (Glick) elected officials. If we allow them to stay in power, and we do not get in the game with initiatives like bike-share from the beginning, we deserve what we get. Too late for complaining, when you don't participate, or work to make change at the top, where it matters.

    • Would you have rather they put them in in the middle of a busy day when traffic was at its heaviest? They would have had to close your street to allow the trucks and workers space, likely causing a lot of traffic.

    • Were there cars on this street before? If so I'm just curious as to how an ambulance got to someone elderly in the throes of a heart attack because of the parked cars.


    • How come nobody cries when parked cars, delivery trucks, cars unloaded and loading, etc etc block access ? Don't you agree also that it is easier to do an installation like this at night, when we won't complain about them blocking the streets ? Only in NY do people whine this much when we get something positve.

  6. JeffreyR10012

    In the last year i've gone from feeling negatively about BikeShare to becoming one of it's many thousand annual members. It happened quite suddenly while listening to a Dylan song I grew Up with … "The Times They Are A-Changin". It was an epiphany for me.
    I see how 10,000 more bikes on our streets will force bikers … who'd here-to-fore had ridden with little regard to basic rules to be posted on each blue bike… who will now by the sheer force of other bike traffic need to obey those same rules just for their own safety. more traffic requires more adherence to rules to survive. Like the song says … get out of the way if you can't lend a hand, for the times they are a-changin…
    I am concerned that DOT may be undermining proper traffic behavior by placing some stations (like the one in Petrosino Sq.) on the very sidewalks that they warn the bikers not to ride on. It is foolish to start riders out breaking the rules if we want them to take "no riding on sidewalks" seriously as I believe DOT should, and NYPD officers certainly could. There is something that needs fixing there.

    • Eric McClure

      Most bike racks are on sidewalks. No one complains that their placement on sidewalks encourages cyclists to ride on the sidewalks.

      • Eric, you continue to be a zealot with a closed mind. No one complains that their placement on sidewalks encourages cyclists to ride on the sidewalks? Not true. I've heard it a lot. Petrosino Square is a case in point. Granted, the bike share docking station is placed in the park's open space, which is not technically a sidewalk, but is definitely where cars are not allowed and pedestrians generally stand, talk, look at art, walk. Anyone removing a bike from there will have to ride where people are supposed to be. Not cars…people.

      • JeffreyR10012

        point taken

      • none of the racks I have seen are on the sidewalk.

    • Jennie Baker

      Your arrogance is beyond belief! New Yorkers have not raised small concerns, nor is it simply a matter of NIMBY. Certainly sounds like you are a bike militant or a paid, but ineffective, PR person for 'the cause.' Why don't you get on your bike a and ride away to some distant city……

      Lora Tenenbaum has it right when she writes that there was not real community outreach. Those meetings were the pretense of involving New Yorkers. In reality, the DOT never intended to really listen but rather just do whatever they wanted to – it was easier that way.

    • I'm Mike Bloomberg and I approved this message.

  7. My issue is that the bikes are hideous to look at and turn cyclists into mobile advertisements for Citigroup, a company that is hugely responsible for our financial crisis, our recession, and current efforts to undo the Dodd-Frank legislation that curbs some of the abuses Citibank perpetrated upon our people. (See yesterday's NYTimes story for more on this, including the legislative collusion of Democratic congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who is funded by Citi.) The bikes, while useful in theory, are a cheap civic trick, a way for Citigroup to distract New Yorkers from its corporate egregiousness.

    • My issue is that cars are hideous to look at, listen to, smell, and be around and they turn motorists into mobile advertisements for automobile manufacturers that have pushed a financially ruinous suburban sprawl development pattern that has fundamentally bankrupted the United States. The cars, while useful in theory, are a cheap trick, a way for automobile pushers to distract New Yorkers from the fundamental unsuitability of single-passenger motor vehicle transportation in a big, crowded city.

      • Not to mention oil companies and natural gas and fracking advocates, who I'm quite certain are busy opposing bike initiatives all around the country, right along with their opposition to public and inter-city rail. You have a problem with Citigroup? Then get out there and elect local politicians who have the guts and the clout to get tax dollars to pay for things like this, and Pier 40, instead of tax dollars for sexual assault coverups. And take down all the ads on every subway and in every bus shelter while you're at it. And every ad from the sides of buses, and all the highway billboards to boot. Get to work funding a not for profit to run it if you have a problem with it. A lot of people in this community, myself included, would support it. Complaining is cheap talk.

    • David, excellent comment.. it is most ironic that all these alternative transportation
      advocates are wiling to suck up to Citibank to get this plan underway.

  8. Eric McClure

    Clearly, we need new Community Board leadership in New York City.

  9. Can Gruber and Johnson provide examples of locations that "make sense"? This article doesn't seem to mention any, and excludes both small historic streets and intense commercial streets. They make some good points here but in the absence of constructive ideas, I don't think it's unfair for people to wonder if they aren't against bike share altogether.

    • Georgette Fleischer

      I find it unfair to expect David Gruber and Corey Johnson to provide in this article specific locations that "make sense," and from my personal experience I find it inaccurate to accuse them of being "against bike share altogether." David listened to extensive testimony from CB2 constituents around Petrosino Square during the March and May, 2013 full board meetings. I think no one came away from those sessions believing that either the dangerous Cleveland Place location, which was nixed after FDNY asserted it would interfere with rescue efforts, or the currently usurped art installation space of Petrosino Park "make sense." It would be too burdensome to expect community board chairs to provide specific locations, nor are they necessarily best positioned to do so. The communities themselves are. In the case of Petrosino Square, we have continued for months now to plead through our elected representatives–Deborah Glick and Daniel Squadron have been particularly active on our behalves–for DOT to consider three nearby locations: the east side of Lafayette Street north of Spring, the west side of Lafayette Street north of Spring, or the west side of Lafayette Street south of Spring (between Spring and Kenmare). In each case, we ask that instead of usurping about 1/3 of the length of our tiny, newly renovated park, DOT instead replace car parking with bike parking in the form of a bike share station. What is not constructive is that DOT has for months refused to evaluate these reasonable community-based alternate suggestions. Indeed, DOT has not had the courtesy to respond to Assemblymember Glick or Senator Squadron on this question, despite their best efforts to get DOT to work with the community on it.

      Georgette Fleischer
      Founder, Friends of Petrosino Square

  10. Amsterdam has actually invented INVISIBLE bike-share stations; I didn’t see a single one when I was just there! Amazing.

  11. Village Smithy

    It is clear that there is a network of cycling extremists who don't live anywhere near the Village – like McClure who lives in Bklyn and Brian Van, who lives in midtown east – and who never commented in The Villager before, and who are on some email-alert chain, flocking to The Villager once one of them alerts the group of a story that fits their myopic agenda.

    These fanatics only comment on bike stories, and they only arrive hours or days after a story is posted.
    They never comment on NYU, on SVH, on the HS rezoning, etc, etc, just on their selfish, narrow agenda.

    Is it any wonder cycling extremists such as these are so reviled by the vast majority of NYers, as they attempt to fool us that their views are the views of our neighbors or even the vast majority of NYers, who think this program has proven to be a failure even before a single bike has been rented?

    What kind of human being would shill for Emperor Bloomberg, a weasel with a Napoleon Complex, who bought his 3rd term against the wishes of the People? If he hadn't done that, these CitiBikes would not be an issue today.

    What kind of human being would call his neighbors a pejorative term like NIMBY while extolling the virtues of Nanny Bloomberg, a man so crooked as to put Boss Tweed to shame?

    What kind of human being would serve as the sycophantic toadies of Billionaire Bloomberg, who is so far removed from the rest of us working-class NYers?

    • I love how you (yet another anonymous Villager poster) presume to speak for:

      "the vast majority of NYers, who think this program has proven to be a failure even before a single bike has been rented?"

      A farcical, and egotistically general statement. I guarantee you that you do not speak for me. First of all, bikeshare is a CITYWIDE initiative, secondly, allow the adults around you to speak for themselves. Who are you to speak for EVERYONE? This actual Villager, who shares your Bloomberg "buying his third term" concerns, but who supports ANY bike initiative, sees through your invective, and wants to know:
      1.) What DO you support?
      2.) How do you intend to implement it?

      "Cycling extremists" ?! You are actually calling those who are seeking to green the city "extremists" ? Well guess what, pal, that puts you in the same league with the NYPD, as relates to cyclists. You're calling pro-cycling and pro-green New Yorkers terrorists. There is NO other way to describe your intent.

      So we here in the Village, who ride bikes, see through YOUR shilling. And since you are not willing to identify yourself, we will assume you are a right wing shill pretending to be a "working class NYer" in print, but in reality are probably an anti-green fake blogger, the same kind who not that long ago in op-eds railed against women seeking equality by calling them "feminazis".

      "Village Smithy"? As New York tabloid as "Scoopy". Anonymity, is anonymity. It degrades the public square.

  12. Village Smithy-er

    Please ignore Sean Sweeney. He’s just a local NIMBY extremist

  13. Lora Tenenbaum

    Beautifully written. It needed to be said. Thank you.

  14. Joseph Hanania

    Whenever there is anything new, there are going to be some adjustment problems, and there are going to be people who complain. It goes with the territory, unfortunately. These bike stations are not bolted into the ground, and can be moved if found to be in the way. So, the methodology is correct. I suspect, however, that there are people who will complain, no matter where the bikes are sited. That, too, is to be expected – kind of like honking horns on busy streets. The fact is that New York is not the first to try this program, which has been well received elsewhere. Do the critics want New York to be the last to roll this out. Good for Bloomberg for doing this.

  15. I just used my new citibike this morning and it was wonderful. I thank the city and Citi for doing this. For the naysayers, this process was long and involved; residents of NYC must get involved to be involved. Beginning in the fall of 2011, DOT staff met repeatedly with community boards at the leadership, committee, and full board
    levels, elected officials, leaders of business improvement; then they met with other groups. If it is true that members of the community are unaware of what was going on then this is the direct result of members of the community failing to get involved: you have to reach out for information, participate in local politics, read the Villager, which has reported on this since the start. We have become complacent, we expect to be spoon fed information. Participate on the grassroots level and you will no longer feel like you have been left out of the loop.

  16. Excellent piece with added info from the POV of two community board chairs.
    I am sick and tired of the shilling for Bike Share from those who label anyone who
    objects NIMBY or elitist. And it's outrageous that Citicorp did not have to comply with the design elements of the historic districts.. that is not right and it's certainly not democratic to exempt a corporation. you can read
    my (short) op-ed "Feeling Steamrollered by Bike Share Roll Out" on my website. ran in AM NY, May 17

  17. This retort is also tired- that those of us with issues about Bike Share are not involved in our community.

  18. anyone who thinks that adding a few thousand bikes is going to have any impact on subway traffic and air pollution is delusional. Subway trains hold 800-1000 people. So all the bikes on the street account for an extra 6-8 trains, total, in an entire day. that's a rounding error.

    As for pollution, I would submit that bikes and bike lanes only choke off the streets, slowing the existing traffic which actually causes more pollution. Try walking up 8th avenue in the teens and 20s and you'll see the true impact.

  19. This was a thoughtful piece. Its points need to be addressed by DOT and will be no doubt.

    Should human-powered transportation be able to become what it can be in this most suitably dense urban space, this can become Bike City, and should. The barrier is mostly in the volume of waste produced by the current, industrial scale transportation system and the efforts of those who feed off of it, from the tabloids to the oil, insurance and banking interests, exerting their influence in innumerable ways. The strangulation of urban rail 80 years ago, (with the help of over 400 of GM’s and ESSO’s secret holding companies) is hard evidence of the determination by these interests to prevent any serious competition to their poisonous, over-powered and out-of-scale creations.

    The benefits that we may earn, through our embrace of human-scale transport, small, clean and safe, with a little exercise thrown in, here in a perfect place, as closely packed as NYC is, are real and important. The noise generated by those wed to the status quo and its mixed blessings will be loud and continuous. It will eventually yield to the music made by those listening to themselves and each other.

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