Citi Bike to double service area, triple number of bicycles

Motivate, City Hall staffers and others arrive at Brooklyn Borough Hall riding pedal-assist Citi Bikes on Aug. 20.
Motivate, City Hall staffers and others arrive at Brooklyn Borough Hall riding pedal-assist Citi Bikes on Aug. 20. Photo Credit: amNewYork

Citi Bike will double its service area and more than triple its fleet of bicycles during the next five years.

The expansion will make Citi Bike one of the largest bike shares in the world, growing to 40,000 bikes and stretching out by another 35 square miles, according to the de Blasio administration.

“This expansion means tens of thousands more New Yorkers are going to have a fast and inexpensive way to get around their city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “It also means much more reliable service for all the riders who already use Citi Bike.”

The planned growth is a result of an agreement the city has reached that allows Lyft to acquire Motivate, the operators of Citi Bike. As part of the deal, Lyft will invest $100 million to improve and “strengthen” the bike-share system, and Citi Bike will continue to operate without public subsidies. 

The announcement was light on details as to when and where exactly Citi Bike would expand. Polly Trottenberg, the city’s Department of Transportation commissioner, said the system will likely grow from its current borders in Brooklyn and Queens and potentially stretch to all of Manhattan.

Lyft plans to add both regular and pedal-assist bikes to its fleet as part of the expansion. It also pledged to add 12 new valet stations and improve on bike and parking availability. The company also agreed to continue and expand the Reduced Fare Bike Share program, which offers discounted memberships at $5 a month for all NYCHA residents and SNAP recipients.

A pedal-assist Citi Bike sits in a dock next to Brooklyn Borough Hall on Aug. 20.
A pedal-assist Citi Bike sits in a dock next to Brooklyn Borough Hall on Aug. 20. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

“Today’s announcement marks a major milestone in Lyft’s growth as a sustainable transportation service that connects communities and reduces unnecessary driving in urban centers," John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder and president, said in a statement.

Jon Orcutt, a spokesman at TransitCenter, a nonprofit transit advocacy organization, praised the news, but stressed that the expansion must come alongside better bike infrastructure, such as safe bike lanes. 

“The timeline gives the bike network some time to catch up with the bike-share system, because that’s obviously very much a work in progress,” he said. 

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, agreed. He called for a dramatic increase in protected bike lanes, from 29 miles of built or planned protected lanes today to 100 miles during the expansion "to ensure riders and pedestrians are safe and can ride without worry," he tweeted.

The commitment comes after years of intense pressure on the city to work to establish a bike-share system across all five boroughs. This summer, the city launched several dockless bike-share programs with private companies in areas where Citi Bike didn’t reach, including Staten Island and the Bronx.

It’s still unclear when or even if Citi Bike will grow to a five-borough system. The bike share will continue to have exclusive operating rights within its expanded service area, but the city will retain the rights to pilot and implement dockless bike-share systems outside of that network.

Trottenberg said only that she thinks "it’s likely" Citi Bike will eventually reach every borough.

"I don’t want to commit to that," Trottenberg said at a news conference, "because I want to work with the City Council because, again, I think there’s a balance of potentially dockless [service]."

Uber, which owns the dockless bike-share company JUMP, has its own expansion ideas for Staten Island and the Bronx, where it’s currently piloting service. Alix Anfang, an Uber spokeswoman, said the company is "ready, willing and able" to expand to 10,000 dockless bikes in those two boroughs.

"The city should work with all parties to ensure access to everyone who wants to ride a bike to get around their communities — not one company which has long left outer borough New Yorkers stranded," Anfang said in a statement, referring to Citi Bike’s parent company.

Trottenberg said the city is pursuing an expansion of the dockless network as well, but had no further details. Community boards will be consulted as part of the city’s "detailed protocol" for designing the expansion, she said.

"We have a . . . pretty elaborate siting process to make sure we are putting them in the places where the public wants them, where they are going to be used and are minimizing parking loss and other things," Trottenberg said. 

With Lisa Colangelo