Bike-share backlash

Photo by Tequila Minsky

As our Page 1 article in this week’s issue notes, a plan to show a movie by Community Board 2 on bike-share has been scrapped in favor of a large discussion forum on bike-share, and specifically the new bike-dock strips that have sprung up all over Downtown.

The movie — actually, reportedly two short films about bike-share in other countries — was to be accompanied by a presentation by two Department of Transportation officials who lead New York’s bike-share program, known as Citi Bike. But, like the plan for the movies, these D.O.T. officials have vanished, and unfortunately apparently may not attend the discussion tonight, Thurs., May 2, at P.S. 41, at 116 W. 11th St., starting at 6:30 p.m.

David Gruber, C.B. 2 chairperson, explained to us that the event’s change of format was made after the board’s office was “inundated with calls and concerns” from nearly 100 local residents about the size and placement of the new bike-share stations.

As a result, the venue was moved from an earlier N.Y.U. location with a 100-person capacity to the P.S. 41 auditorium, with space for 350 to 400 people.

Gruber, who will lead the forum, told us he’s perturbed that D.O.T. — as of our press time — was saying it would not send a representative to the meeting. So, Gruber will do his best to allow people to express their feelings, in hopes of reaching some solutions.

“It’s disappointing,” he told us late Wednesday afternoon. “As of right now, D.O.T.’s deciding not to come. I’m going to run the meeting — but I don’t have answers. I’m not D.O.T. Ask me the day after the meeting, and I may have answers.

“A lot of what we’re hearing is that people are O.K. with the bike-share program,” he explained, “but that they didn’t expect it to be this large or in these locations.”

In short, many folks feel blindsided by the long metallic strips of bike docks suddenly slapped down around the neighborhood.

“Certainly, people didn’t see the scale or the volume,” Gruber noted. “People are saying, ‘Can it be broken down into smaller units?’ ”

Clearly, the city is anticipating high demand for the new eco-friendly and affordable transportation alternative, and feels bike docks of a certain size are needed. We, for one, do eagerly look forward to using Citi Bike. Sure, there are issues to be ironed out — and, yes, some real safety concerns — but we’re hopeful it will be a great program.

And a lot of the bike stations actually do seem to be sited in good, appropriate spots. But, for example, in the case of bike stations bolted down in front of residential buildings, we certainly can understand people’s trepidation, to put it mildly.

“I get it, but it doesn’t have to be so many in one place,” Gruber said of the multi-bike stations, summing up many residents’ thinking.In short, he said of the reason for the forum, “People need to vent and they need to say what the problems are.”

Gruber has invited residents from neighboring Community Boards 3 and 4 to the forum, since similar concerns are shared across Downtown neighborhoods.

The main unease, he said, of bike-share is “where it starts to interfere with the flow of life. … In Europe, these bike-shares are integrated into the fabric of the city — not like these massive barricades.”

Again, we support bike-share. But many residents have concerns — many quite legitimate — about the siting and size of the bike stations. Thursday’s discussion hopefully will help steer us in the right direction to kick this program off on the right foot.

Let’s give bike-share a chance at least to start rolling. But D.O.T. must not hide from concerns about a program that will dramatically reshape — has already reshaped — our landscape.