BY JACKSON CHEN | At a July 6 Community Board 8 meeting, the city’s Department of Transportation presented a plan for infilling the Upper East Side with Citi Bike docking stations while reducing the size of some existing stations in response to neighborhood concerns.
About a year into the bike sharing program’s expansion up to East 86th Street, DOT and Citi Bike operator Motivate are looking to reconfigure the setup of seven current docking stations, while adding nine new stations throughout the neighborhood.
The main goal in the reconfiguration of the Citi Bikes program below East 86th is to reduce the walking distance between docking stations, according to John Frost, the executive director of the Citi Bike program at DOT.
“These stations will help improve the Citi Bike system’s performance by increasing station density,” a DOT spokesperson said, “ensuring users will always be within a short walk of a station.”
While there will be no net change to the number of bikes available on the East Side between 59th and 86th Streets, the DOT said it has not finalized the exact amount of bikes to be removed from existing docks or installed in new stations.
Though CB8 voted in support of the new plan, lingering concerns about the amount of space the stations would take up remained. According to CB8 Transportation Committee co-chair Scott Falk, in selecting the stations put in place last summer, the DOT likely viewed them as the most expeditious way of expanding the program into the Upper East Side.
“We’re a difficult enough neighborhood that they wanted as few fights as possible so they threw fewer, huger stations at us,” Falk said of last year’s expansion. “Now what they’re actually doing is going back and trying to better serve the needs of the system and the community.”
In pinpointing locations, Frost explained that there were obvious tangible constraints like fire hydrants and manholes, but that DOT was also limited to spots that best fill in the holes within the bike share network.
But DOT and Citi Bike and DOT are running into more than just those hurdles, with residents voicing concerns about the new docking locations being recommended.
According to Betty Cooper Wallerstein, president of the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, the infill station to be installed on East 83rd Street close to East End Avenue would be disrupted by a steady stream of construction projects on the avenue.
“There should be no bike stations on East End because it’s a small area and has an enormous amount of construction projects,” Cooper Wallerstein said.
Another resident, who declined to share his name, pointed out that an infill station at East 78th Street near Second Avenue could prove problematic for the midblock medical offices and its many disabled patients.
But the bigger picture for Cooper Wallerstein was that the DOT should have consulted the community before selecting locations in order to appreciate all the potential obstacles to siting new docking stations.
Falk agreed that more communication from DOT is desirable, but emphasized that at this point it should come regarding any changes to the plans announced last week. He explained that after the mid-2015 Upper East Side expansion was announced, there were several minor changes such as locations moved slightly or never installed, that were never run by CB8.
“What hasn’t been good so far is the communication about changes, revisions, temporary or new stops,” Falk said about the station installations. “The only way to eliminate a lot of the backlash is to be really good neighbors.”
According to DOT, the infill and reductions should be completed in the fall, which will be done alongside Citi Bike’s expansion up toward East 110th Street, which begins in August.