By Jessica Meditz
As Citi Bike continues to expand in Queens and throughout the city, cyclists, drivers, and other commuters are becoming more vocal about their views on the bike sharing system.
This summer, the DOT and Lyft plan to follow through with a Citi Bike expansion plan that was released in February, adding 52 Citi Bike stations throughout Community Board 5’s neighborhoods of Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, and Ridgewood.
Because the majority of proposed Citi Bike locations are in roadbeds, community leaders and civic groups remain concerned about the impact on small businesses and residential areas with the loss of parking that’s to come.
In response, the Juniper Park Civic Association released a counter proposal to the DOT’s Citi Bike draft plan in April, suggesting that only 43 stations be added to the community—all on sidewalks.
“We’re a transit desert in most of the areas, so they were putting more of their stations in the street, which takes parking away from people who need it for parking at their residences or businesses,” said Christina Wilkinson, a member of JPCA.
“I think our plan is more sensitive to the needs of the community,” she continued. “We’re having bus stops taken away from us and spaced further apart. So having bike share with this narrow criteria that the DOT has of every two or three blocks is not very realistic if they’re asking people who take mass transit to walk further to get to the bus.”
Although Wilkinson said that the DOT seemed fairly receptive to their counter proposal, it has since been revealed that most of their suggestions were rejected.
Since then, Councilman Robert Holden called out the DOT, demanding they stand up for New Yorkers and work with civic organizations to incorporate community feedback into these plans.
He has also called for Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia to be fired.
“The Queens DOT has repeatedly put the brakes on most requests for stop signs, speed bumps, and other traffic safety measures. Someone shouldn’t have to die for the Queens DOT to act, but that is exactly what the Queens
DOT has done under Commissioner Garcia,” Holden said in a statement.
“Garcia’s Queens DOT makes a dog and pony show out of asking for community input and then throws it in the gutter,” he continued. “Lyft’s Citi Bike program continues to gobble up parking spaces badly needed by hardworking New Yorkers, like a giant corporate PAC-MAN who refuses to hear the reasonable requests of middle-class neighborhoods in favor of the fanatical anti-car movement and a corporation with a vested interest in getting New Yorkers to give up owning cars.”
Although she supports cyclists and feels all commuters should be able to live cohesively, Kathy Masi, a Glendale resident and member of Queens Community Board 5, also feels angry and ignored due to the “lack of transparency” surrounding the issue.
“The DOT made a proposal of where these locations were going to be, sent it to Community Board 5, who sent it to the Transportation Committee, who never sent it to the entire Community Board for a vote. Every board member has a right to this information and the right to have input,” she said.
“It actually seems that there was no thought process by DOT or, had this gone to the entire Community Board for discussion, I’m sure that a lot of these issues would have been brought up,” she continued. “We have never had a major DOT issue that was not put before the board. For example, the bus lane on Fresh Pond Road.”
As skepticism of the proposed Citi Bike locations continues, other residents are just as outspoken about why they believe more docking stations would improve the community.
Elizabeth Crowley, a Ridgewood resident, former councilwoman for Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, and parts of Woodside and Woodhaven in District 30, and a candidate for State Senate District 59, is actively pro-bike, advocating for protected bike lanes and for more folks to ditch their cars and start biking.
She is in favor of the DOT’s Citi Bike plan to build locations in roadbeds.
“The sidewalks are for pedestrians, and far too many pedestrians feel threatened by bikers. We need to remind cyclists, as some of them are not respecting sidewalks and using them when they have to stay on the road. The whole idea of taking up a sidewalk is counterintuitive to using our roads for cyclists,” Crowley said.
Mollie Lauffer, a Glendale resident and an organizer of new bike advocacy group Ridgewood Rides, echoed Crowley’s sentiment that Citi Bike stations are safest on the road, not the sidewalk.
“Sidewalks are already too crowded and there’s not enough space for people as it is. Cars park on them and cause damage, cars block crosswalks, and people can’t see when they’re trying to cross the street. If bicycles are parked in the road it’ll prevent cars from parking there and make it safer for everyone,” Lauffer said.
She argued that because a single parking space can fit at least 10 bikes and many cars in the area only have one occupant, the city should not have to go out of its way to preserve street parking spots.
“Biking has exploded in Ridgewood the past couple years. You can see people riding bikes here all over the place and people are just trying to make do—Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth doesn’t have any truly protected bike lanes with hard barriers,” Lauffer said.“It’s time for us to have safe infrastructure like they’re building everywhere else in the city.”