Pitting bikes vs. art

Well, bike-share is off and rolling in New York City, and as of this past weekend, the new program is now open to users on a daily and weekly basis, as opposed to annual membership.

The Citi Bikes are pretty much everywhere. Every tenth cycle or so whizzing by on the Hudson River Park bikeway, for example, seems to be one.

You can spot them, not only by their distinctive blue hue, but by the fact that their lights are always on — thanks to a reserve power source built up from the users’ pedaling.

No, admittedly, these aren’t streamlined racing bikes or even fairly fast hybrids. But they’re solid, serviceable. And it’s good to see that they’re being used, and that more folks are out biking, be they New Yorkers or tourists.

There have been glitches and problems, for sure. On Tuesday, we saw a bike-share mechanic replacing a credit-card swiper in the Citi Bike kiosk at 11th St. and Second Ave. — apparently someone had poured a salty substance into the slot, disabling it. But the mechanic seemed very capable, and it’s good to see this program is also creating jobs.

However, as everyone is well aware by now, the siting of the bike-share docking stations has been a cause of concern for many residents and merchants. The city’s Department of Transportation has addressed some of the complaints, by shortening certain docks, such as on Bank St., or, in at least one case — on Renwick St., in Hudson Square — by completely relocating the station to another street. We hear the Fire Department has also gotten some docks shifted where they were blocking fire trucks’ ability to make turns.

Without weighing in on every bike dock in the Downtown area, we do think one location, in particular, presents a unique situation that D.O.T. needs to consider.

We’re referring to Petrosino Square, at Spring and Lafayette Sts., in Soho. As area residents have been saying in their protests and petition — and as The Villager reports in this week’s issue — Petrosino Square has regularly hosted public art displays since 1984. This is, after all, Soho, a neighborhood world-renowned — or at least once renowned — for its artistic life. Although Broadway and Prince and Spring Sts. have long since morphed into glitzy shopping strips, the artistic spirit lives on in Soho, and in what today many call Nolita, as seen in the creative protests that denizens have been doing in the square ever since the bike docks arrived.

What’s more, it’s clear that, in Petrosino Square’s recent renovation, the Parks Department designed the triangle’s northern end to be open, in part to accommodate public art. Indeed, Parks e-mails leaked to The Villager by a Petrosino activist state this, and also make it clear that Bill Castro, Parks Manhattan borough commissioner, felt it was inappropriate to site the bike-share dock here. Yet, D.O.T. went ahead and put the bike-share dock right on the spot designated — or, at least, seemingly designated — for public art.

Of course, the number-one concern is safety. Cleveland Place, on the square’s eastern edge, actually does get slammed by traffic fairly often, and this five-way intersection has some confusing traffic patterns. If the Petrosino bike-share dock can be relocated into the street bed somewhere nearby — without compromising the safety of cyclists, pedestrians or drivers — then, by all means, we support this. From what we’ve seen, most of the bike docks actually are in the street bed, so it’s not clear why this Soho location had to be different.

Clearly, the Petrosino protesters are fiercely protective of this small public space, and want to see it restored as a display area for public art. The record of 30 years of public art isn’t going away — and neither will the protesters. There’s a simple way D.O.T. can end this standoff: Just move the bike-share station.

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9 Responses to Pitting bikes vs. art

  1. Petrosino Park has a very legitimate complaint.
    However the outrageous placement of Citi Bike stations on the intimate streets of the West Village needs serious rethought. Several stations are directly in front of apartment building housing many older/elderly residents, owners, renters. If a n ambulance or garbage truck or fire truck needs to pull up in front, there is no possibility. Another point- Citi Bike users are putting their lives at risk every time they try (difficult) to unleash the bike from it's station and back it into oncoming traffic. Additionally "year round"? What in the world will the snowploughs do? The users climbing on to a wet seat? Digging a Citi Bike out of a snow bank for 30 minute ride? Seriously flawed addition to NYC, needing input from the community right now.

  2. UrbanInvention

    bikeshare offers many, many benefits if done properly. while it may be too late now, for the future newer technology would get rid or reduce many of the problems. the newer technology and newer business models can be implemented at a fraction of cost. the newer technology can also be used in places like hunts point, red hook and other places unlikely to ever see the current citibike technology.

  3. Jessica Tawnley

    Great. Now we have people who are clueless about riding bikes and who could not care less about traffic rules bombing down one way streets the wrong way and running red lights. It's total anarchy. Will Citibikes ever get ticketed? I doubt it. And, they don't wear helmets. The typical New York way of doing things….let's just not deal with a whole bunch of issues just so we can get this in the can.

  4. I think Bikeshare is terrific, and that the slower, upright bikes provide a "calming", civilizing effect that may in time change the anrchist tendencies of other bikers in the city, and to the vehicular and pedestrian traffic as well. I hope the program becomes a really huge success, and that the few problematic docking stations such as Petrosino Square are resolved with reasonable dialog. In the meantime, the curmudgeons who have lost parking spaces, or just hate any change they didn't get to argue about should tone down their rhetoric before they discredit all Villagers as intolerant cranks.

    • CorpRaiderOrRider?

      "I hope…problematic docking stations such as Petrosino Square are resolved with reasonable dialog"

      What are you talking about?
      DOT has known about this problem of poor placement at Petrosino Park for well over a month, yet refuses to re-locate the CitiBike rentals into the roadbed – where they belong.

      There has been NO attempt at dialog from DOT.

      Every elected official has asked the agency to restore the public art space. DOT refuses. No explanation given.

      Reporters call DOT to ask why they don't give the public its art space back. The calls are not returned by DOT's press office. All this is well documented in this and other newspapers.

      CB2 a year ago passed a resolution requesting that no CitiBikes be placed in our public parks. DOT, despite its spurious claims of holding hundreds of meetings with the community, ignored CB2 and destroyed the exhibition space at Petrosino, favoring a large CitiBike rental station there instead of art.

      Before you label us Villagers as "curmudgeons", why are you so lenient towards the real curmudgeons here:
      the Department of Transportation and their allies at Transportation Alternatives, a "non-profit" that has paid people to collect petitions requesting DOT not to restore the public art space and to keep the bike rentals there?

    • IYou sound well intentioned and would like to see an end to incessant vehicular traffic in search of a parking spot — but you do NOT sound like a Native New Yorker. Did you read the article?? Forget about property values –IF this is a year-round situation, how will an ambulance, Fire Dept, and OR the snow plow do their jobs and / OR save people if those bikes are in the way. CB2 urged and demanded there be NO bike docking station not only in Petrosino Park –there is NOT to be a placement of any docking station in any public park space ANYWHERE in NYC. End of discussion. So the Mayor, DOT and Citibank places it in Petrosino Park in defiance. –where else will fall victim to Citibank and the DOT: Central Park, Prospect Park, Madison Park??

  5. One thing is for sure: bikes do not look as pieces of art.

  6. This is not a comment on bikes as much as the "artists rights" cause. The art spoken of has become commercial and the "artists" (ie proprietors) are just protecting their ability to engage in commerce. If the city banned sale of art, or subjected it to the same rules as vendors of consumer goods, the proprietors would fade and the true artists stay.

    • Josh: The art installations that have been on view at Petrosino Square over the past 30 years are not for sale, they are displayed for public view, free of charge to those who visit our little local park at Petrosino Square.

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