Locals don’t see eye-to-eye on Citi Bike

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

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.”

New e-bikes added to Citi Bike’s fleet debut in Astoria

Jason Subratie said he could barely sleep the night before meeting the new upgraded e-bike that he would be using as his primary mode of transportation around the city.

The young Manhattan-based entrepreneur says he discovered Citi Bike’s fleet of e-bikes last summer and has been riding ever since.

From delivering food orders to earn money, to visiting family members in Queens and Brooklyn, Subratie has even come up with a slogan for the bike-share company owned by Lyft.

“Why walk when you could use a Citi Bike?” Subratie said with a laugh. “I literally don’t believe in walking anymore, unless it’s out of the network. And I stay pretty much in the network.”

Subratie biked to Astoria last week to help welcome the new and improved line of e-bikes being added to Citi Bike’s fleet, and was one of the first New Yorkers to take the new model out for a ride.

Standing in the shadows of Astoria Houses, the debut of the new e-bikes came with celebration from community leaders and Citi Bike officials, who also noted the reduced fare program for residents of New York City Housing Authority.

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, CEO and founder of Astoria-based nonprofit Urban Upbound, led the collective remarks with some reflection on the place he’s called home for his entire life.

“The transportation burden on this community was quite great,” Taylor said. “So, to have us here today offering a transportation alternative is really historic.”

Laura Fox, the general manager of Citi Bike, outlined some of the new features of the revamped e-bikes, which include a longer-lasting battery life up to 60 miles and a reflective-paint that is highly-visible at night.

“When we thought about the design of the new bike, we tried to simplify all the features, give it double the battery length, make a larger motor so you can get up those hills a little bit faster and easier, and really create a great, simple experience,” Fox said.

The nation’s largest bike-share network was purchased by Lyft in 2018, and now has over 1,500 docking stations and 25,000 bikes across New York City and Jersey City.

The partnership of Citi Bike and Healthfirst, New York’s largest non-profit health insurer, will offer $5 monthly memberships for NYCHA residents and SNAP recipients, with e-bike fares starting at $.05 cents a minute under the reduced fare program.

As someone who was born and raised in multiple NYCHA developments, Migel Santino, vice president of Healthfirst, says he understands the challenges that many NYCHA residents face.

“Those challenges stem from unequal access to resources, which makes life more difficult,” Santino said. “I will say that it is always important to have a program like this but it is particularly important as we are still working our way through the pandemic.”

As the new e-bikes hit the streets for their inaugural rides, Subratie was still elated with joy to be one of the first New Yorkers to ride the newest addition to Citi Bike’s lineup.

“I ride e-bikes all day, everyday,” he said. “I appreciate the upgrade.”

JPCA releases Citi Bike counter proposal

JPCA argue that DOT draft plan would disrupt Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale and Ridgewood

As ridership increases and environmental preservation efforts are further encouraged, the Department of Transportation seeks to expand its Citi Bike outreach.

Its latest expansion proposal would add 52 Citi Bike stations throughout neighborhoods within Community Board 5, which include Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale and Ridgewood. It would include 18 stations on the sidewalks and 34 in roadbeds.

In response, JPCA released a counter proposal to the DOT’s Citi Bike draft plan in support of residents who own cars in those communities, which is the majority of households.

“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,” JPCA member and Juniper Berry Editor Christina Wilkinson said.

“So 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.”

She emphasized that JPCA takes no issue with stations placed on sidewalks as they are non-disruptive, however they must be placed strategically.

“The regular destinations of people living here, such as Queens Blvd. or Woodhaven Blvd., as well as the other half of CB5, do not yet have Citi Bike docks installed. The inability to dock the bikes at popular destinations reduces the program’s usefulness,” JPCA’s counter proposal says.

“It would be more strategic to have Citi Bike installed boroughwide along major commercial corridors before focusing on residential area placement.”

The counter proposal also points out the fact that Citi Bike docks feature branded content from Citi and Lyft, which is generally prohibited on residentially zoned blocks.

JPCA advocates that only 43 stations be placed in the CB5 neighborhoods, and eliminated the locations from the DOT’s plan that they felt would not be as useful to residents.

Their plan has been shared with the DOT via a virtual meeting on April 6.

“I think that they were pretty receptive to what we were saying. They just received the proposal earlier that day, so it was hard for them to give us any feedback on what we proposed,” Wilkinson said.

“But they said that they would look at each individual location, most likely visit it in person and determine whether or not there were any reasons why what we proposed wouldn’t be able to be implemented.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing