GOWANUS — Citi Bike is one his customers, but the owner of a Gowanus fencing company says the bike-sharing service could mean more harm than good for his business.
Al Paciello of U.S. Fence Systems, Inc. is one of several Gowanus business owners who say Citi Bike is a bad fit for the industrial neighborhood, because it forces cyclists to navigate through heavy truck traffic and busy loading zones.
"I don't know who did the research [on where to put Citi Bike docking stations] but Third Avenue in the morning is really dangerous," Paciello said. "It's putting additional pressure on businesses as far as loading and unloading and getting our deliveries in and out."
Paciello sells fencing to Citi Bike and believes the program is a good thing for the city as a whole. But he questions the wisdom of putting a docking station not far from the entrance to his busy wholesale and fabrication company.
U.S. Fence Systems, which has been on the corner of 14th Street and Third Avenue for 60 years, opens at 6 a.m. The Third Avenue entrance is a "constant loading zone" where trucks drop off pallets of fencing material and contractors load up on his products, he said.
On a recent Friday, a cyclist steered between a truck that was being unloaded and a parked car and nearly crashed into one of Paciello's two forklifts, he said.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” said Paul Basile of the Gowanus Alliance, which advocates for neighborhood businesses. "What the city has done is incentivize people to ride bikes on a very busy truck route," he said, referring to Third Avenue, which will soon have six new Citi Bike docking stations.
Basile recently posted a video on Facebook, which he hoped would show city officials why Third Avenue isn't a good spot for Citi Bike.
Basile worries in particular about tourists at the growing number of hotels in Gowanus who may not know the dangers of Third Avenue.
Another four docking stations were recently installed on Fourth Avenue, also a truck route, as part of Citi Bike's expansion into Brooklyn.
The bike-sharing program's arrival in Gowanus worries some business owners because it feels like another step toward making the neighborhood less hospitable to industry and more geared to residential development, Basile said.
"The city says it wants to protect manufacturing, but it’s not doing things that reflect that," Basile said.
A Department of Transportation spokeswoman said in an email that Citi Bike has already been installed in Industrial Business Zones such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Williamsburg-Greenpoint Industrial Business Zone "with no negative impacts."
"In addition, bike share systems can be used as part of the city’s traffic calming tool kit to create safer road conditions," the spokeswoman said. "They may help to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries by slowing vehicles, creating additional visibility for all street users and enhancing the pedestrian realm.”
DOT carefully weighs a variety of factors when deciding where to place Citi Bike docking stations, including travel patterns, utilities, building and subway entrances, the spokeswoman said.
She added that DOT uses an "extensive" community input process to gather feedback on where stations should go. In cases where locals said they were worried about docking stations gobbling up on-street parking spots, DOT responded by putting the stations on sidewalks or other non-parking areas "to the greatest extent possible."
By the end of 2017 the Citi Bike program will have doubled in size since the system launched from 6,000 to 12,000 bikes, the spokeswoman said. In its three years of operation, Citi Bike has had more than 32 million rides and zero fatalities, she added.