Lyft’s Citi Bikes are expanding to the Bronx and other New York City areas after being criticised for serving only rich neighbourhoods

A cyclist pedals a Citi Bike near Grand Central Terminal in New York City. AP Photo/Richard Drew
  • Citi Bike‘s third wave of expansion was announced Tuesday, with new stations planned for the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
  • The Lyft-owned bike-share system says it will have 40,000 bikes – more than triple the current amount – online by 2023.
  • However, the expansion comes amid a spate of cyclists killed by cars in New York City and activists say local politicians and police haven’t done enough to stop it.
  • Earlier this month, a community group blasted Citi Bike for only serving white, wealthy citizens who already had transit access.
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Citi Bike, the bike-share program owned by Lyft, is expanding to the Bronx, company executives and New York City elected officials announced Tuesday.

CitiBike service map
This map show’s the system’s current coverage area. Each dot represents a docking station. Citi Bike / Lyft

The latest expansion to the previously unserved borough as well as new neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan involves more than tripling the number bikes currently in the system to 40,000 by 2023, officials said.

When Lyft purchased Motivate, which operates Citi Bike as well as similar programs in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and other major cities, the company pledged a $US100 million investment in the system’s continued growth. Tuesday’s announcement is a further continuation of that investment, the company said.

“Here in New York, Citi Bike’s expansion to new neighbourhoods will provide convenient, affordable, and sustainable transit access to many additional New Yorkers, shortening commutes, boosting public health, and building connections between communities across our great city,” Caroline Samponaro, Lyft’s head of micromobility policy and former bike activist, said in a press release.

Citi Bike came under fire earlier this month when a group called New York Communities for Change published a report blasting the system for largely serving areas that were made up of white, wealthy, customers.

“Our analysis finds that the Citi Bike network mainly serves a privileged population that already has strong transit options,” the report said. “Future expansions of bike sharing in NYC, either through the existing Citi Bike system or through the introduction of new competitors, should expand the effective size of the population who can access the subway in neighbourhoods of high social need.”

To its credit, Lyft offers discounted passes for public housing residents and those who receive other government benefits. The company also pledged $US50 million every year to improving economic outcomes for lower-income residents through its City Works program, it said.

A harrowing time for New York City cyclists

NYC bike die in washington square park
Cyclists hold a ‘die in’ in Washington Square Park to call attention to the 15 cyclists killed in New York City so far this year Business Insider / David Slotnick

Tuesday’s announced expansion also comes amid a rash of bicyclists killed by drivers on New York City streets. Fifteen cyclists have died since the beginning of 2019, far outpacing previous years. Advocates, including the organisation TransAlt, have called the Mayor’s Vision Zero plan ineffective, and have staged many demonstrations to call attention to the fatalities.

This month, the group staged a “die in” at Washington Square Park in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, with members holding signs with the names of killed cyclists.

“Some people say that there are too many people on bikes in New York. We say there are too many cars,” Ellen McDermott, the co-deputy director at Transportation Alternatives, one of the organisers of the event, told AM New York at the time. “It is time to change how we build our streets. Every single New Yorker deserves safe passage, whether you are walking or on your bike – this should be your right.”

Lyft also plans to relaunch electric bikes in New York soon, after pulling hundreds of the bikes from streets when they were found to have faulty brakes. Redesigned – and rebranded – Lyft bikes have launched recently in the San Francisco area with more cities in the works.

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