Happy birthday, Citi Bike! The bike share program celebrates its fifth anniversary this weekend, and for all of the naysaying and doomsday-predicting that preceded its 2013 launch, it has been, by all accounts, a success.
In the past five years, the program has proven incredibly popular: In 2017, for example, there were more than 17 million trips on Citi Bikes; it’s now approaching 60 million total rides over the course of the past five years. (It also sees more trips per day than Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pet ferry project.) While the system has encountered problems along the way—including the first fatality on one of its bikes last year—it’s now become an essential part of the urban fabric.
Still, for as popular as the program is, this year also marks the first one since the 2013 launch that some kind of expansion plan is not being rolled out. Instead, the city will launch its first dockless bike share pilot, with operators bringing bikes to neighborhoods currently not served by Citi Bike. Coney Island, the Rockaways, Fordham, and Staten Island’s North Shore will benefit, and the first bikes will hit the streets in July.
What does this mean for Citi Bike? According to New York magazine’s Justin Davidson, its parent company, Motivate, is looking at e-bikes as the next big innovation for the program. “[Motivate CEO Jay] Walder sketches out a hypothetical but not-too-distant future in which e-bikes might make up half the fleet,” Davidson writes. When those might roll out, however, is less clear.
But in the meantime, Citi Bike will throw a fifth birthday party in Prospect Park to celebrate—in addition to the usual hosannas from transit advocates and elected officials, the event will include a group ride, discounted memberships, and a “Citi Bike museum,” apparently. The whole shebang begins at 10 a.m. at the Grand Army Plaza entrance, with the festival going from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Smorgasburg’s location in the park.
And now, courtesy cycling advocate Doug Gordon, here are some old headlines predicting Citi Bike’s downfall—it’s an interesting walk down memory lane: