Though Citi Bike has become a popular bike share option since it was first implemented in 2013, it typically does not serve outer boroughs like the Bronx, Staten Island and most of Queens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the city is looking to work with other companies to fill in the gap. Specifically, the city released a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) seeking companies that provide dockless bike systems.
“New Yorkers have embraced public bike sharing faster than anyone expected,” de Blasio said in a statement. “These past four years, we’ve strengthened Citi Bike and doubled its size. Now it’s time to take the next big step and bring safe, reliable and affordable bike sharing to even more of the city.”
Since its arrival in 2013, New Yorkers have made more than 53.5 million trips on Citi Bike. The city wants to work with other companies that may have lower operating costs and that can bring more outer borough service at a faster rate than Citi Bike can.
In addition to looking at the feasibility of a dockless system, the RFEI should analyze how practical it is for the city to implement a “free-locking” bike share system. This system would allow riders to unlock a bike using their phones and the bicycles would not be locked to a dock or rack.
Companies should also outline how their systems would keep riders and pedestrians safe and make sure that the bicycles would not obstruct streets and sidewalks.
The bike share system should also be affordable, with the city citing other dockless stations in the country that price trips at $1 per 30-minute ride.
“Citi Bike has been a unparalleled success story in providing New Yorkers affordable, safe and green transportation, but as we are learning from around the U.S. and the world, the next generation of bike share in New York City may not even require that the bikes themselves be parked in docks,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “With so many companies anxious to prove their skills in serving our city’s diverse, demanding and lucrative market, this RFEI allows us to create different pilots and evaluate what works best, allowing us to move far beyond the limited neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens that Citi Bike now so ably serves.”
Several companies would be chosen to participate in pilot programs so that the city can evaluate the vendor and its equipment and monitor how New Yorkers respond to this dockless system.
In Queens, Citi Bike is only available in Long Island City and Astoria but other Queens neighborhoods with little transportation options could benefit from bike sharing programs. Councilman Eric Ulrich, who represents the Rockaways, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven, said he would welcome a bike share expansion.
“Residents in outer-borough communities are starving for transportation options and dockless bike share can help to fill the void,” Ulrich said. “As a vocal advocate for the expansion of public bike sharing, I am thrilled DOT is looking to bring affordable and eco-friendly bike sharing to geographically isolated neighborhoods, like the Rockaways.”
Interested companies must submit answers to several questions by Jan. 31, and interviews will begin in the spring of 2018.