Bronx Cyclists Wonder Whether Borough Will Get in Citi Bike Share Program

By Patrick Wall on May 8, 2013 9:53am 

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 The borough has many riders who would benefit from a bike share, cyclists say, but also some biking issues that need addressed.
A Bronx Bike Share
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THE BRONX — The thought of thousands of cyclists bolting from hundreds of bike-share stations recently installed in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn has many riders drooling — and some residents seething.

But far removed from the mania surrounding the launch this month of Citi Bike’s first phase, many Bronx bikers are wondering when — and if — the system will ever expand to their borough.

The Bronx has plenty of riders who would benefit from an affordable bike-share program, cyclists say, but also some major biking roadblocks that must be removed.

“There’s a lot of potential and it’s an exciting time,” said Mott Haven artist and bike advocate Elizabeth Hamby. “But we have to keep the pressure on so that things actually happen.”

The initial phase of Citi Bike — a privately funded and operated program that is overseen by the city’s Department of Transportation — includes 6,000 bikes at 330 stations in Manhattan south of 59th Street and in some neighborhoods in northwest Brooklyn.

The next phase will extend the program north in Manhattan, south in Brooklyn and to part of Queens.

These first areas were selected because their high density of residents and visitors is expected to generate the most riders, according to the DOT, which met extensively with the public when choosing the exact station locations.

Depending on the system’s success, it could be expanded later beyond these two zones “based on demand and resources,” DOT officials said. (An agency spokesman declined to answer specific questions about future expansion.)

There is no shortage of Bronx bikers who would likely use the system were it added in The Bronx, cyclists said.

“I get a lot of people calling about bike rentals,” said Jeffrey Martone, owner of Neighborhood Cycle, a two-decade-old bike shop in Melrose.

“I see a lot of bike culture here,” he added.

While the borough’s biker community may not be as visible or cohesive as in other places, some cyclists said, riding is ingrained in many Bronxites’ lives: whether through commuting to work, cruising through the borough’s many parks or playing with friends.

And interest in Bronx biking appears to be growing, Hamby said.

Last year, she and a partner organized a well-received series of Bronx bike rides and workshops.

Lately, the Bronx chapter of Transportation Alternatives, a group that advocates for safer streets for bikers and others, has reactivated, Hamby noted.

And other riders continue to push for bike-friendly initiatives, such as car-free Sundays along the Grand Concourse and connected greenways with bike trails.

“It’s insanely exciting what’s happening,” Hamby said.

Still, many Bronx cyclists say more could be done to make biking safer and easier in the borough — especially the South Bronx.

The city installed 59 bike-lane miles in The Bronx from 2006 to 2012 — far fewer than the 111 miles added in Brooklyn, but more than the amount installed in Manhattan (58 miles) or Staten Island (18 miles) during that period, according to the DOT.

But several cyclists said many of the longest, easiest-to-ride lanes extend through parks and roads in the north Bronx, such as Mosholu and Pelham parkways.

And the Bronx has only one so-called protected bike lane, which is painted between the curb and a lane of parked cars, compared to 19 in Manhattan and 16 in Brooklyn, according to the DOT.

This can make riding in parts of the South Bronx feel perilous, some said.

“If you go in the street, they can crash you with a car,” said Oscar Aguilar, 16, a Melrose rider who said a turning car once knocked him off his bike. “But if you go on the sidewalk, you get a ticket.”

The borough needs better traffic-law enforcement by police and greater biker awareness by drivers, said Monxo Lopez, who commutes by bike from Mott Haven to his job in downtown Manhattan.

“Above 96th Street, it’s like people don’t notice you,” Lopez said.

(Despite some riders' safety concerns, The Bronx saw far fewer bike crashes in the last quarter of 2011 than every borough but Staten Island, DOT figures show.)

Lopez added that some Bronx riders might struggle to pay for Citi Bike, which costs $95 for an annual membership or about $10 for a 24-hour pass. (The city has created a discounted membership for public-housing residents.)

Still, most agree that Bronxites could put a bike-share program to good use.

First, for a borough battling obesity and other health woes, it would encourage exercise.

Also, it would provide another transit option to fill gaps in the subway and bus systems, but at an annual cost that is cheaper than a monthly MetroCard.

The bike stations could be situated near major Bronx destinations (such as Yankee Stadium, the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo), shopping centers (including the Hub, Fordham Road and Arthur Avenue) and the borough’s many colleges, cyclists suggested.

“In the next expansion, all of the boroughs should be included,” said Chauncy Young, a Highbridge resident who bikes daily with his daughter. “Otherwise, it’s not a fair system.”

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