BY JACKSON CHEN | Residents, community board members, and even City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal picked apart Citi Bike’s expansion and infill plans for the Upper West Side during a CB7 meeting on July 12.
After expanding the bike share program north to 86th Street last summer, Motivate, the operator of Citi Bike, and the Department of Transportation are now working to reallocate some bikes away from the largest stations in the neighborhood and create new stations that would offer better network penetration.
According to the DOT, three docking stations on Riverside Drive — at 67th, 78th, and 82nd Streets — would be reduced in size and six new stations would be infilled between 59th and 86th Streets. Alongside the infill plan, Citi Bike is also expanding above 86th Street toward 110th Street with 18 new stations.
Despite several workshops and meetings that DOT held on siting, the plans to increase the amount of stations received a variety of criticisms regarding the agency’s outreach efforts as well as particular locations that were chosen.
For residents of West 87th Street near West End Avenue, the planned location of a new docking station at that corner took them by surprise.
“A lot of people aren’t just worried about the craziness of this certain spot,” Natalie Hilzen, a West 87th Street resident, said. “But people were very upset because no one had been notified that this was going on.”
The residents argued that if either the DOT or Citi Bike had approached residents of West 87th Street, they would’ve been informed of upcoming construction projects that would compete for space with the proposed station.
“There are ambulances, huge laundry trucks, food delivery services, nursing home staff,” Hilzen said. “And we’re between two entrances of the West Side Highway so people are always coming through our blocks.”
Siding with the residents, CB7’s Transportation Committee co-chair Dan Zweig also criticized DOT’s online forms for citizens offering feedback. According to Zweig, the DOT’s website page that takes comments and criticisms regarding proposed locations always defaults to a positive review, regardless of the nature of the comment.
“You all come and say, ‘We reached out to the public with many meetings and the website,’ but you did it flawed,” he said.
Zweig also pointed to one proposed site that he said was contrary to the city’s Vision Zero goals for street safety.
“You might as well change your program… to Vision One because you’re going to lose a cyclist every year if you put a site up there,” he said.
According to Zweig, the proposed station at 107th Street and West End Avenue, which merges into Broadway just above 107th, would leave cyclists in an extremely precarious situation because the narrowness of the block combined with the double parking would have fast-moving vehicles coming very close to parking lanes and the docking station.
Zweig said he raised this problem several times throughout the siting process but the plans still include the 107th and West End Avenue spot, an example that he argued was indicative of the complaints about a process lacking sufficient community input.
“All of those people in the neighborhood have never heard that this was coming,” Zweig said. “If people are saying they don’t know, it’s not just because they’re not on Twitter.”
Councilmember Rosenthal, who also worked carefully on the siting process, agreed with the concerns raised at the July 12 meeting and asked DOT to review with her some of the locations that have raised complaints.
Colleen Chattergoon, DOT’s Manhattan community liaison, said the agency would conduct a neighborhood walkthrough in order to garner specific suggestions from Community Board 7. A DOT spokesperson said they are still in the process of scheduling that walkthrough.
Not everyone on the Upper West Side, however, is unhappy with the Citi Bike expansion.
“I really can’t believe there’s this much objection to the relatively small slice of urban space Citi Bike wants to take out for a transportation form that’s far more desirable than driving is,” said David Vassar, an Upper West Side cyclist.
Vassar said he hoped the public narrative would change and people would accept bicycles as an improvement as well as something inevitable.
According to the DOT, the expansion north of 86th Street up to 110th Street is scheduled to begin its rollout in August, while the infill stations below 86th should start appearing this fall.