This month Citibike turns 1 year old, and the system couldn’t be more hotly contested, following up on what I last wrote. These two articles (whose sources run the gamut in terms of journalistic reputation…ha…ha…) offer a number of suggestions for what to do, most importantly increasing the annual fee (usually for locals), adding public funding to the mix in addition to raising more private funds, and focusing marketing on the tourist and one-off day pass market.
Perhaps what has made the most news is Mayor Deblasio’s rejection of a possible increase in pricing for the annual membership as well as possible public funding for the program. Though he ran on a (naive, pretty ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky) populist/ultra-left platform, it seems strange that Mr. Deblasio wouldn’t seek any kind of public funding for Citibike. The rationale behind his hesitation to increase prices does play into his pandering to the economically disenfranchised (he doesn’t think citizens should pay a CENT more for the service), but this seems contrarian to his denial of public funds for the system.
In Copenhagen, though ill-fated the bike sharing program was successful for some time, and it absolutely relied on public funding from the outset (from the Municipality of Copenhagen) to get itself off of the ground, in addition to the kind of private funding that the public-private partnership of Citibike drew out. Mr. Deblasio is a very inexperienced official (to say the least), but if he wants to create any kind of legacy, at which he has failed since his election, it goes without saying that he should not only look to the successes of his predecessors (Mr. Bloomberg, for one…) but also to the leadership of other successful cities for inspiration. Though New York is an unusual place many thousands of miles away with a completely different history and context, it has, can, and should continue to learn from a city like Copenhagen in increasing its bicycle ridership yet another 80 some-odd percent over the next 5 years.