More Than Half of Citi Bike's Early Members Did Not Renew

Friday, August 01, 2014 - 04:00 AM

Citibikes parked in front of The Apple Store in midtown Manhattan. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

Citi Bike doesn’t publish numbers on how many people are renewing their memberships. While the system does release monthly reports on how many people sign up or renew, it doesn’t break out renewals as its own figure.

We know that at the end of May, the system had 105,355 active annual members. Those are people who have paid $95 for a year’s worth of riding, and have activated their little blue key. At the end of June, the system had 96,318 members.  Does that mean almost 10,000 people didn’t renew at the end of that month? Unclear.  

But a WNYC analysis of Citi Bike data suggests that about 22,000 people renewed during May and June of 2014. At the end of last June, the system had 52,125 members. Which indicates almost 30,000 of the system’s first users have chosen not to renew so far.  

(The way we arrived at those numbers is explained below. Warning: math ahead.)

A Citi Bike spokesperson did not dispute those numbers. There is no shortage of reasons why early adopters might hold off on renewing their membership: broken docks, full docks, empty docks, cracked bike seats, and the lack of Citi Bike availability in many neighborhoods. The system currently has no stations above 60th street in Manhattan, none in much of Brooklyn, and none in Queens or the Bronx. 

Or maybe members are all waiting to see if the takeover of the system, reportedly imminent, resolves the hardware, software, and geographic problems. They just might have to pay more for a membership if they choose to renew later – the price could rise from $95 up to $155, according to sources close to the negotiations.

How we did the math:

In the system’s monthly operating reports, we can find how many “annual members sign up or renew” in any given month. For June of 2014, that was 18,364. And in Citi Bike's spreadsheets of system data, we find a day-by-day count of “annual member signups.” For June of 2014, that count is 4,573.

It’s reasonable to think that the number of members signing up or renewing, minus the number of members signing up, would yield the number of members renewing. Or, expressed as a formula:

(signup + renewal) – (signup) = renewal

For June of 2014, that looks like:

(18,364) – (4,573) = 13,791

For May of 2014, that looks like:

(13,303) – (4,958) = 8,345

Adding up the May 2014 and June 2014 renewals, we get 22,136 renewals.

We subtracted that from the total number of members in June 2013: 52,125. Those 52,125 members are the ones whose memberships expired in June of 2014, a year later.

So, then:

(Members at the end of June 2013) – (renewals at the end of June 2014) = members who did not renew


(52,125) – (22,136) = 29,989

We asked Citi Bike if our logic made sense, and if our numbers were accurate. A spokesperson did not dispute the figures. 


Comments [21]

Daniel from SOHO

I would gladly renew at double the price, if it worked. I lost count of the times I have been late because I couldn't find a working doc near my location. That is just one of the issues. There are many. By the way, I signed up in May 2013, and my membership was extended through September of this year because of all the trouble. I wonder how many people are still using there one year membership four months after it should have expired because of extensions?

Sep. 19 2014 03:50 PM
Downtown Resident from Downtown Manhattan

We were all saying last year that the CitiBank scheme would fail and, depsite all the hype from Bloomberg, Sadiktator-Khan, Tranportation Alternatives, Streetsblog, and the press that it was a "success", once the numbers come out, we see it as the failure that we predicted.

Have I spelled "schadenfreude" correctly?

Aug. 05 2014 03:58 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

The correct answer to this question cannot be determined from information provided.

NYC DoT & CitiBike have not shared with anyone here the true clue to a renewal rate, that would be: At what rate do the first year's members participate in the program throughout the year? Big-time users will renew; so-so users might wait and think it over; and, members who never, rarely or entirely stopped using the bikes are a lost cause without some real incentive. Negative news like higher rates or shutdown rumors never help.

The Capital bike share program in DC shared this pertinent information with researchers early on in order to plan correctly. Those researchers published those numbers and their analysis long ago. I read it, and I'm sure I was not alone in that.

Not so here in NYC. Non-use is an obvious predictor of non-renewal, but that might dissuade investors and customers alike. So we go to media-blackout. Only good news gets out. Nothing wrong here. All is up and just racing ahead. Victory is ours.

Anyone see Jeanette Sadik-Khan commenting anywhere?

Aug. 03 2014 04:14 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

For the record, I am not wishing for this program to go away. If it can survive on its own, than it just can't. That's the market for you. Keep in mind that this was promised not to use taxpayer money. Why should the city government give Citi Bike life support when Bloomberg promised none of that to be used? It's not like any other private business is getting government funding to stay afloat unless they happen to have friends in high places. I still don't get why Citibank themselves can't just come up with the money or even Bloomberg himself since he thought of it. Overall, I'm not against those that want to use this program, I'm just against those who believe it should use taxpayer dollars and even use personal attacks on those that oppose it, which I tend to find childish behavior.

Aug. 03 2014 02:49 PM
Mike from East Village

I realize we are a city of well-informed, opinionated complainers, but please let's not wish this AMAZING bike share program away. Yes, it has had its growing pains-- but what project this ambitious would not? I had to learn the cut-off time in my neighborhood (LES/East Village) beyond which time, in the morning, I would be unlikely to find a bike (even after going to 4 locations) or after which, in the evening, I would be unlikely to find an empty (and functioning) dock.

But guess what, I adapted. And 80-90% of the time it works very well-- so long as I am smart about it. I learned what my 4th and 5th location options were, and I have not yet had to spend a night with my bike in bed with me.

I probably use Citibank multiple times daily, seven days a week, throughout lower Manhattan.

I was reluctant to join (because I didn't want to ride a Citibank advert around town), but will happily renew when my membership is up in December.

(I am thrilled that some of you don-t want to ride in snow or rain. More bike for me :)

Contrary to a comment above, the reason I finally decided to sign up was that the maintenance costs of my own bike were rising out of control. For me it is much more cost effective to use the shared biked program than to own and maintain my own bike: flat tires, stolen pedals or seats. Not to mention the fact that I was always hesitant to put a light or bell on my own bike for fear of it being stolen. Now I have lights at night and a bell!

Yes, the bikes are heavy and sometimes the gearing is less than smooth, but do the cracked seats really bother people? Jeez... What you want guys? Maybe we should approach Mercedes for sponsorship.

Aug. 02 2014 10:07 PM
Chang from NYC

Bronx, I hope CitiBike recognize ur enthusiasm and hire u as a spokesperson. We all see from our view point with subjectivity. But don't u agree most of bikers don't know how to ride bikes like you? When are u going to make a tutorial for cool biking in NYC? I wouldn't expect bikers follow all rules made for cars but at minimum, 1> respect RED light n STOP sign: I wouldn't expect full stop but at least automatic slow down (not conditionally) because somebody has the right to go at green light without stress worrying others may go through it. 2> respect ONE WAY: because shared direction is very important. One way means every body with object should move on direction otherwise risking collision. Bikers usually say that pedestrians always do. But e=mc squared bike's added weight and speed makes it dangerous. Besides pedestrians always should pay more attention to car but bike from wrong direction distract them. 3> Right of Way not just right: when various moving parties converge with speed, who has ROW is very important. With right of way, move but with defense. Without ROW, YIELD n move with defense.

Aug. 02 2014 04:25 AM
David Ganz

I'd be curious to know what percentage of the non-renewers did not live near a citibike station?

Aug. 01 2014 08:30 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

"Those that oppose this program are morons"

I am expecting an immediate apology from you right now, especially when that was downright insulting, and nobody called you that for your position, which I tend to find being very childish and unprofessional when it comes to an actual debate.

Aug. 01 2014 08:12 PM

When it works well, Citibike and the small network of protected bike lanes are liberating. No need to worry about where to lock your bike during a meeting, or whether it or parts of it will be there when you return.

Let's hope the new investment will improve capacity and expand the map. Because bikeshare is too great not to be part of NYC.

Aug. 01 2014 05:57 PM
Stan from Midtown

I renewed my membership. I use Citibike 5-15 times per week and it has become the best transit option for many of my common trips.
I also know people who did not renew - many common commutes have no bikes available at the time you need one. Midtown East is barren of bikes by late afternoon. The Lower East Side clears out by 8am. There are people who saw the promise of a bike share program, but the reality is not as useful for their situations.

Aug. 01 2014 04:40 PM
Bronx from NYC

Anyone that thinks that having a personal bike is equivalent to bicycle share is a lost cause already.

I guess i'll just pull my bicycle out of my back pocket when I need it because we all know that bicycles are going to be always with you like a set of keys.

Hey Tal. Bad weather, no problem. You just wait till it stops raining and jump on a Citi Bike like thousands of New Yorkers already do. Bike share, always available, how convenient huh. Of course, you wouldn't know this because you don't even live here.

@lizzmo: You must despise riding on the subway, buses, cabs too. Hell, I hope all your clothing is also ad free.

Those that oppose this program are morons. It frees up room on mass transit and our roads, improves accessibility and public health.

It is no surprise that people would drop out considering that New Yorkers like most Americans lack patience and expected a citywide rollout immediately. A quick glance at other systems debunks that idea. This is actually a blessing in disguise because the system is seeing too much usage during peak hours. Either way, Citi Bike still achieved its target ridership.

Aug. 01 2014 04:39 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

My guess is that those that didn't want to renew either found it to be complicated to use, or they just thought that the membership fee was too much for them. In reality, it's cheaper to own your bicycle and maintain it rather than use a bike share. Let's not forget that the system has been a life support in meaning that it hasn't been in good shape. Another thing is that this probably wasn't used much in bad weather, and I would be surprised if anyone actually does ride a bicycle when it rains or snows, which I find to be crazy, but that's just me saying that, so please don't grill me for mentioning that.

Aug. 01 2014 03:44 PM

Does anyone else resent riding around on a rolling advertisement for Citibank? A more subtle design may be less off-putting.

Aug. 01 2014 11:30 AM
Jared from Brooklyn, NY

Again, most of the complaints seem to be coming from people that don't understand bike share. I renewed immediately. Citibike has been a life-saver getting me from Fort Greene/Clinton Hill to express trains in Downtown Brooklyn. I ride it down DeKalb year-round, even in 15-degree temperatures. Don't mock Citibike for stressful riding in Midtown and lack of bike lanes, go after the Mayor's office and anti-cycling/pro-car community boards who block bike lane expansion!


Aug. 01 2014 10:26 AM
Chris from Lower Manhattan

I renewed my membership. No, the system is not perfect. I can walk to my office from my apartment so I am not an every day user. However, I take Citibike at least 5 times a week. Sometimes to run errands, other times on weekends from the financial district up to Union Square. Stress is eliminated if I 1) know where the bike lanes/ paths are; and 2) plan my trip ahead of time. I do with the system had a better balance of bikes; far too often I have gone out for a bike at 10 pm and not been able to find one in FiDi. That being said, I love it.

Aug. 01 2014 09:58 AM
Stephen B Schwarz from Jersey City

I am one of the first 5000 annual members and I renewed immediately without question.

There are many problems with the system, I'd give it a B-. The bikes are much heavier and lower geared than my own bike. Problems with bikes and docking stations exist. No docking stations above 60th street. Riding in NYC can be an adrenalin rush, or intimidating.

I live in Jersey City and love being able to get a bike near a Path station, ride it to where I am going, drop it off, and not worry about it.

The program has definitely improved my quality of life and enjoyment of NYC and I like the annual membership program.

I hope the program improves, more bikes and docking stations added, especially above 60th street in Manhattan (I have to walk from 86th to 58th to get a bike) and more people respect the bike lanes, especially people in cars who block the lanes forcing us to merge into traffic (this means you too New York Police Dept).

Finally, the city should provide financial support to the system as it does the transit system.

Aug. 01 2014 09:35 AM
Lorenzo Bevilaqua from Manhattan

Citibike is a wonderful program that had a really tough roll-out, not unlike some other very ambitious, sweeping public programs. The bikes are sturdy and almost vandal-proof, and the are designed so that inexperienced riders can operate the bike safely. I definitely plan to renew if I don't buy my own bike first. Buying a bike is expensive, and not always an option when you have a small New York apartment. Yes, it can be hard to find a bike at some docking stations, but there is always another station very close by. If Citibike can improve the kiosk software considerably so that tourists can easily access the program, and if they expand the program throughout Manhattan and to other boroughs, it would be worth paying $150. for the year. I just hope the program survives long enough to make the changes.

Aug. 01 2014 09:33 AM
Adrian from Park Slope

I renewed. The system certainly has it's problems, but it remains an invaluable addition to the transportation infrastructure and hopefully those issues will be solved soon. I have my own bike and use it most days, but Citibike is great for days when it's raining (it has fenders to prevent spray, and allows you to take the subway home if the weather is too bad), or for journeys where there is no secure place to lock your bike at the other end. Sure they could improve the rebalancing of bikes, but if you find a busy station like Grand Central/Penn Station, you generally don't have to wait long for a new bike to show up. I think 10 mins is the max I've ever had to wait...

Aug. 01 2014 09:25 AM
h. from Queens

@Truth & Beauty, I'd like to shop where you shop if you can get a functional bicycle and a quality lock for under $95.

If you live and work within the service area, Citi Bikes are a pretty good bargain. Sadly, the service area still leaves out much of the city, and the need to you leave extra time to find a bike or an open dock are really holding the system back. I have already renewed at $95, but unless I see some real progress, I would not renew at $155 next year.

Aug. 01 2014 09:22 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I see the system as a problem. One annual membership can cost more than purchasing a bicycle, so I'd rather own my own. I think the bikes should be pay as you go only. Much better and less complicated for tourists and casual users. And, as the previous comment states, if bicycles are not available, then having paid a membership fee in advance is pointless. If the bikes are pay-as-you-go, like taxis and bus/subway, then you get what you pay for and you pay only for what you get.

Aug. 01 2014 08:50 AM
Michael from Brooklyn

I didn't renew because, I didn't like the system. Too often I left work in Midtown and there were no bikes. The bikes themselves aren't very good, and riding in NYC traffic is too stressful. I wish they would get rid of the whole system. If the city is serious about alternate forms of transportation, get rid of all these taxis, instead of increasing them. Open the roads for better public transportation not personal taxis.

Aug. 01 2014 08:12 AM

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