I feel like I’m spending an awful lot of time defending Citibike these days. And—confession!—I’ve never even ridden a Citibike. Why? Because I’ve got my own bike. And because, even though my office is near several docking stations, I don’t live near one, so what good would it do me? Also, my subway commute is really easy and the only part of my day when I can
critically judge what other people are doing on their commutes and then tweet about it stare aimlessly into space. But still, despite not using it (yet), I am still a big advocate of this city having a bike share program and of promoting a mode of transportation that will hopefully lead to less car traffic, and maybe ease up on the overcrowding of subways during commute times. And the bike share program has been a success beyond the wildest predictions, with over 80,000 users registering in the first three months, far surpassing the goal of 60,000 users over the first year. But there are still naysayers. So. Many. Naysayers. And sometimes the complaints are so ridiculous as to be easy to dismiss, but other times the complaints take the form of more serious accusations, all in the name of sensationalism, and suddenly, I find myself defending Citibike again.
The latest charge is that Citibike is only for “rich, white people,” and it has been leveled because initial data shows that “the service…mostly caters to white men in households making six figures.” Furthermore, “residents of public housing, meanwhile, make up just 0.5 percent of the members (285 total), despite the $35 discount offered to people in low-income housing.” And so, obviously, this means that Citibike is only for elite white people! Or maybe, it means that most of the docking stations are in midtown and points south, and specific areas of north Brooklyn where, mostly, well-off people live. Citibike would actually be perfect for low income people because the $60/year is a hell of a lot cheaper than $112/month for an unlimited Metrocard. But people can’t ride Citibikes easily if there aren’t docking stations in their neighborhoods. But is that racist? Or classist? Well, considering that there aren’t any docking stations on the Upper East or West Sides yet, which are pretty much bastions of elitism, I’d have to say no. This program is still not even 6 months old yet! Maybe, if the rollouts continue to avoid areas with large minority populations, and lower income families, then harsh charges can be leveled. But for now? Give it some time. And stop saying that something is elitist when it is significantly cheaper than using the subway.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen