Low-income and minority communities lack access to CitiBikes

By Jonathan Westin | 5/16/2019, 4:18 p.m.
Every day, over 40,000 trips are made on CitiBikes in NYC.

Every day, over 40,000 trips are made on CitiBikes in NYC. Unfortunately, only a chosen few have access to these bikes within their neighborhoods. CitiBike’s docks are solely located in Manhattan below 135th street, and small sections of Queens and Brooklyn, all areas which are predominately white and affluent. The rest of the City - Northern Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, and the majority of Brooklyn and Queens - have all been excluded from their service. It’s hard to understand how, after more than doubling the amount of bike docks they’ve put on the ground since its inception in 2013, they have not installed even one CitiBike dock in these areas.

Low income and minority communities are impacted the most by this lack of access. New Yorkers who live in neighborhoods such as Canarsie, East New York, and Southeast Queens often struggle with transportation issues. These areas are often viewed as transportation deserts with limited access to trains or buses. The nearest subway is typically outside of walking distance, and residents often have to take more than two methods of transportation to get to their destination. Instead of CitiBike offering some relief to these communities, they’ve chosen to ignore them completely.

Many of their residents in these excluded neighborhoods who can afford to do so often opt to drive instead of making the frustrating commute. CitiBike’s repeated omission of these communities in their expansion is not only a strain on the residents, but it is also detrimental to the City’s progress in moving closer towards a less congested transportation system. Thus CitiBike is actually hindering our goal of a cleaner, greener city.

Even in the communities where there is access, CitiBike has made it difficult for many New Yorkers to utilize their bikes. There have been major bike availability and safety issues that have made riding not only inconvenient but dangerous. They have also increased the cost of the rides which is just another deterrent for low-income riders. And even for those who have working bikes available nearby, should they have a small child with them, there is no accommodation for them to ride.

In a city as diverse as ours, there’s no room for a company that refuses to serve all of its people. It’s paramount that there is equity in our transportation system across all of New York City. That includes bike-sharing, which can be a very effective means of expanding transportation access to those who would otherwise not have it. Unfortunately, based on CitiBike’s actions, it’s clear that expansion to low-income and minority communities is not a priority for them. That’s why we need the City to hold CitiBike accountable for their lack of service and open the door to competition.

We urge all New Yorkers to join us in telling CitiBike that if it won’t step up and provide its services to ALL of New York, then it’s time for the City to find a company who will.

It’s time we have bike-sharing for all New Yorkers.

Jonathan Westin is executive director of New York Communities For Change