Three years since its launch, Citi Bike has spread beyond Manhattan’s and Brooklyn’s central business districts with plans to move into Crown Heights and northern Harlem this year. The system logged more than 60,000 trips daily for 23 days last year.
The low-to-moderate income neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant was among the first wave of communities that received bike share in 2013, with 10 docking stations in its westernmost corner. By last summer, the program had expanded across the neighborhood to 36 stations, enhancing access and usability. There are more than 5,500 Citi Bike members in Bed-Stuy.
There is a vast potential for Citi Bike in underserved communities, but many of them lack bike share, and there’s no plan to expand the program beyond 2017.
As a community development corporation, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration recognized bike share’s potential to promote equity and quality of life within communities outside the economic mainstream. Biking saves time and money, while improving health outcomes. Obesity and diabetes are endemic in NYC’s low-income and minority neighborhoods, and many communities are underserved by public transit, with residents waiting 30 minutes or longer for a bus. Citi Bike is an answer to those challenges.
But, for it to meet its full potential, the program must reach more neighborhoods. Restoration is working to share its experience with other community-based groups and neighborhoods in the hope that they take up the charge.
As more people view bike share as part of their daily routine, increased membership revenues will lead to the program’s sustainability.
In the meantime, city subsidies are essential. Around the world, bike share is subsidized by governments as viable public transportation. While mass transit receives massive subsidies, it’s shortsighted to deny relatively modest support to bike share given its benefits.
Bike share programs worldwide are extending convenience, health and financial benefits to a diverse population and making ridership more mainstream. In our corner of the globe, we need to move this trend forward.
Tracey Capers is executive vice president at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., a nonprofit.