Bikeshare: the gateway drug to cycling

The Post on Monday interviewed Frank Arroyo, a bike-shop owner who thinks Citi Bike is going to drive him out of business. (It’s so inane – and the Post in general is such a worthless piece of garbage – that I’m not going to link to it here.)

Let’s be serious: the only threat to Mr. Arroyo’s shop is his ignorance of basic economics.

To illustrate, let’s meet Tracy, a Brooklynite who lives at Myrtle and Washington in Clinton Hill and works at Franklin and Hudson in TriBeCa. She usually walks to the G at Clinton-Washington, switches to the A at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, and gets out at Canal Street. Total time, according to Google Maps: 33 minutes.

Clinton Hill-TriBeCa subway

Now with Citi Bike, she can pick up a bike two blocks west at Myrtle and Clinton, ride across the Brooklyn Bridge, and dock at Harrison and Hudson, one block south of work. Total time, according to Google Maps: 20 minutes (plus 3 minutes for walking).

Clinton Hill-TriBeCa bike

Maybe she doesn’t use Citi Bike every day, but Tracy enjoys the flexibility, the speed, and the workout. If it’s raining in the morning, she’ll take the subway in, and consider biking home. She also appreciates how convenient a bike is on weekends, and how it’s always there – as opposed to the notorious wait she sometimes experiences on the G.

Here’s where the bike shops begin to see benefits. Tracy wants to be safe, so she buys a helmet. Perhaps she’ll also purchase some special clothing to make her rides more comfortable.

Slowly, she begins to realize formerly out-of-the-way locations are just a bike ride away. It’s 15 minutes to her favorite restaurant in Williamsburg; 10 minutes to Prospect Park; 10 minutes to the Fulton Ferry area.

But what about outside of the Citi Bike coverage area? She’d shave 20 minutes off her trip to her favorite taqueria in Bushwick. She could visit the beautiful brick houses of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens without having to figure out how to get to the B/Q. She could stop at Green-Wood Cemetery en route to Sunset Park for some banh mi, while saving ten minutes and avoiding a bus transfer.

To some extent, I’m Tracy. I put off buying a bike for a long time last year in the hopes that bikeshare would get up and running. When it was postponed the first time, I continued to demur, saying I didn’t really need a bike. It wasn’t until I had to visit Plumb Beach and Dead Horse Bay that my hand was forced.


I wonder what would have happened had I taken some test rides. Actually, I did – my buddy Chas lent me his fixie so that Craig and I could check out a lot of Sunset Park. I almost bought a bike right then and there, but I put it off and forgot about it.

With Citi Bike, cycling is now at the fore of the minds of millions of Brooklyn and Manhattan residents. Perhaps it starts with a day pass, a week pass, or seeing the blue bikes everywhere – but I’m confident the number of New Yorkers who consider themselves cyclists will balloon in the coming months, and bike shops will be among the main beneficiaries.

I was so excited that when I got home from Oregon this morning the first thing I did was take Citi Bike for a spin, even though the nearest station is 10 minutes away. It’s somewhat inconvenient from home, but it’s going to be huge for getting across town on the island, among many other things.

I’m proud to finally say I live in a city that takes sustainable transportation seriously.

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4 Responses to Bikeshare: the gateway drug to cycling

  1. Jenet Levy says:

    Very nice piece, Keith. And I think when people use a Citibike and find they like cycling, they may want a bike that is more their size or more suitable to them, or more customized, hence they will go that bike shop owner to purchase one of their own. He (all bike shop owners) will get not just their helmet/clothing/gear money but the sale of a bike.

    • Keith says:

      Hi Jenet,

      Absolutely. I see the purchase of a personal bike as the ultimate outcome for many Citi Bike users. That was what I tried to get at here, but I got too cute with the transition to that point!


  2. Harley N says:

    Founding Member! You are part of history and someone may be writing about you 100 years from now. This program is brilliant, and I agree it will promote bike ownership once people see how convenient it is. In the bad old days (70′s) theft was a constant worry; the City has changed for the better.

    • Keith says:

      Thanks, Harley! If early unbiased reviews are any indication, future amateur historians will view Citi Bike as a smashing success.

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