NYC's Bike Share Stuck At Its Current Size

Citi Bike will not be growing any time soon. Six months after the launch of the popular bike sharing program, the New York City Department of Transportation isn't saying when a promised expansion into parts of Brooklyn and Queens will happen. 

Citi Bike began in late May with 6,000 bikes and 332 docking stations. That was less than planned: Storm Sandy damaged 1,000 bikes and 88 stations that have yet to be placed in service. They've been missing from several neighborhoods stretching from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn to Long Island City, Queens -- represented by the gray dots on this map.

With winter approaching, the DOT is still not saying when residents can expect to see the blue bikes on their streets. And this week, DOT staff told Queens Community Board 1 that bike share won't reach Astoria and Jackson Heights for another 18 to 24 months.

District Manager Lucille Hartmann attended the meeting. She said the DOT's presentation aroused no great passion. "Nobody said, 'I don't want these,'" she recalled. "And nobody said, 'Oh goody, goody, goody.'"

That contrasts with the results of an online poll by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, which found that 91 percent of respondents support using federal transportation funds to expand Citi Bike.

Funding seems to be the problem when it comes to growing bike share in New York. Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has prided herself on launching a program with no public money. Instead, Citibank paid for the city's bike share while reaping the benefit of thousands of branded bicycles serving as mobile advertisements for the company.

But it seems that Citibank won't be putting up the extra money needed to implement the full pre-Sandy plan for bike share. DOT spokesman Scott Gastel said, "NYC Bike share has sought federal and other funds that would add 1,000 bikes and 90 additional stations to Long Island City, Bedford-Stuyvesant and elsewhere."

Gastel didn't respond to requests for clarification about whether Citibank was backing away from fully funding its initial commitment to a program with 7,000 bikes and 420 docking stations. In other words, why is the city seeking government funds to complete phase one of a program that Citibank committed to underwriting?

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio has said he wants to expand bike share, but has yet to fill in details to his plan, including funding sources.