Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
A survey of nearly 2300 Citi Bike users by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives finds that about two thirds -- 64 percent -- say their biggest complaint with the system is that docks are either completely full or completely empty. But 91 percent like the bike share system and want to see it expanded.
Transportation Nation has reported on the problem of rebalancing (cool graphics!) -- or moving bikes around to accommodate user need. Empty docks are particularly acute in the morning rush near commuter hubs, like Penn Station, or areas where many residents live but don't work, like the Lower East Side.
In the evening, the problem reverses itself. Near the WNYC studios, for example, the docks on MacDougal & Spring Streets are almost always empty at that time.
But this is the first time that the level of complaint has been quantified. "Rebalancing is a serious logistic problem everywhere," said Transportation Alternatives' Caroline Sampanaro. "It's the biggest problem with bike share everywhere."
Sampanaro said the group is doing a new survey to find out, among other things if frustrations are dissuading users altogether.
Dani Simon of NYC Bike Share said Citi Bike is still "working to replace bikes lost during Sandy," which, she said, would alleviate some of the problems with empty docks. She said that was about 1000 bikes.
Sampanaro said she was "surprised" that broken docks disappeared so rapidly as a problem. When the system began, as Transportation Nation reported in June, some ten percent of docks were completely broken.But Citi Bike was able to install a plug-in that fixed the system, and, as the survey noted, complaints of broken docks -- rampant in the first weeks of Citi Bike on social media -- dropped sharply.
Despite the problems with rebalancing, Citi Bike remains wildly popular among users, with 91% saying it should be expanded. Users seem to want it expanded everywhere: north of 59th Street, the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, Park Slope, Gowanus and Harlem are among the neighborhoods cited.
In other survey responses, 84 percent said they felt safest in physically segregated bike lanes. About half said, in answer to "which traffic violation should be better enforced," that the NYPD should ticket drivers parked in bike lanes.
The survey of 2286 users was taken on line and in person from September 19 - October 16.