Calling Citibike Racist and Elitist Is Bullshit


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


  1. Keep defending it please! I guess the alignment of the planets are making people stick with these “racist” stuff all over. There is nothing in the current world that is not racist lately (except for Bill de Blasio, sorry). It is almost bizarre and seems to be sincere in everyone’s mindset for some reason. Hopefully the planets will align differently soon and we will be back to being a minority that needs to get our act together in order to avoid thinking we are just victims of everyone else (but us).

  2. So here we are more than a year and a half later and no citibike stations is Queens or Bronx at all and the map still looks like a demographic maps of households earning more than $100k.

    NOW will you acknowledge that it’s classist? Or does the fact that there’s no stations on streets that intersect with Central Park prove that its really totally fair and accessible to the poor?

    Brooklyn… feh!


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