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Citi Bike has been slowly powering past their transportation competitors during the pandemic in New York. They now have more riders than Long Island Railroad, Citi Bike General Manager Laura Fox confirmed in a zoom call with Functions.NYC today.
“We’ve for a long time had higher ridership on weekends than Metro-North and Long Island Railroad,” she added. “We have higher ridership than the East River Ferries, and last year we came close to beating aggregate ridership of the Staten Island Ferry. With commuting volumes in 2020, we should beat that this year.”
Weekly figures from New York City’s Department of Transport (see slide above) confirm the meteoric rise of Citi Bike usage during the pandemic. “This serves as a reminder that Citi Bike isn’t a tourist amenity; it’s part of the city’s transit system,” said Fox.
Fox is leading a hundred million dollar expansion, which will double the current Citi Bike service area in New York. At the beginning of the pandemic, they started a critical worker program to provide about 30,000 free memberships to healthcare workers, transit workers, and other frontline workers.
“We had our highest bike ridership month ever last month in September,” shared Fox. They also had their highest ridership day on Saturday, September 12. There were 103,139 rides, with 11% of those on the new e-bikes.
Fox is excited about the new e-bike fleet for many reasons.: “We now have thousands of e-bikes on the street. They facilitate you getting to where you need to go faster, taking a longer trip — especially if you need to go over a bridge — and getting somewhere not sweaty. That’s kind of a funny thing to talk about, but it’s definitely a deterrent and a barrier for people biking!”
Fox pointed out that the use case of how someone is using a bicycle has completely changed from being 80% commuting to 80% leisure. “We’ve had over 500,000 new riders come into the system this year and have been breaking our own internal records in a context where we don’t have any tourists.”
However, she stressed that it’s important for the whole of New York’s transportation system to thrive. “It feels good in the moment to be looking at these mega players and to be saying that Citi Bike is higher, but ultimately New York needs our subway to come back,” she said. “My vision of a future world is one in which you rent a Citi Bike and you get a free transfer to the bus or the subway. My thoughts are much more about how do we collaborate even closer with other transportation agencies in the future.”
Asked about the winter months, she said that they hadn’t seen reductions in ridership so far as the weather has got cooler. Their lowest days in the winter usually has around 30,000 rides when it’s frigid. She admitted taking two days out of the Citi Bike saddle for the cold last winter.
Finally, some winter riding tips from the Citi Bike boss. “In the office, the chat is about whether you prefer to be slightly cold versus slightly sweaty when you’re riding in the winter.” she shared. Her choice: “I wore a light windbreaker every day last winter, with a vest underneath it, gloves, then my helmet as a hat, and boots. It’s all very possible and really enjoyable. Being a little bit chilly was always my preference.”