The long-awaited Citi Bike expansion into Harlem and the deeper reaches of Brooklyn and Queens will begin next week, the city’s Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.
The rollout will start on Sept. 12, with Citi Bike ultimately adding 2,000 bikes and 140 new stations in neighborhoods including Long Island City, Astoria, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights by the end of the year. The announcement comes as the bike share faces continued pressure to expand into all five boroughs and as competitors have eyed their own launches in the city.
“With this round of Citi Bike expansion, bike share will now cover more than 30 square miles, with more New Yorkers able to take advantage of this fast, affordable, convenient and sustainable transportation option,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “More than just adding neighborhoods to the bike share network, Citi Bike is also bringing more bikes and stations to already established neighborhoods.”
Once complete, Citi Bike will have doubled its bicycles on city streets from when it first launched in 2013, growing from 6,000 to 12,000 bikes. Though Citi Bike, the nation’s largest bike share, has yet to reach the Bronx and Staten Island and has had prolonged negotiations with the city as to how to fund a citywide network. Two options have been floated: Either the city can subsidize five-borough Citi Bike service, or it can agree to new terms proposed by Citi Bike that would give Motivate, its operators, exclusive bike share rights throughout the city, among other operational changes.
“New York City remains committed to the further expansion of bike share,” read the DOT news release on this fall’s expansion. “While there are no current plans to grow beyond this year’s installations, DOT expects to bring bike share to more New Yorkers and is actively exploring all available options for doing so.”
Frustrated with the slow pace of expansion citywide, Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich tweeted following Tuesday’s announcement, “Hipsters Rejoice! CitiBike to Rockaway: Drop Dead!”
During the negotiations, several startup companies expressed interest in launching in New York with an emerging “dockless” bike share model that allows riders to unlock, ride park bikes anywhere they please through a mobile app. One of those companies, Spin, planned a pilot in Rockaway, Queens, for this August before receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Transportation Department.
Proponents believe dockless service can be more flexible and serve all five boroughs immediately, with critics arguing that any system that allows riders to park their bikes anywhere will create a mess of the city’s already crowded public space. Citi Bike has appeared cool to utilizing such a model.
“I think when you look at how this technology is being used in other places, I don’t think you’d want that in the city of New York,” said Motivate President and CEO Jay Walder, during a tour of Citi Bike’s new Gowanus bike shop in August. “Technology always changes; it always evolves. There are always ways to be able to look at that. Dockless bikes — which isn’t hard technology, it’s not a difficult technology — that’s not the real question. The real question is how bike share fits into the community.”