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Where’s our CitiBikes?

Bronx Times

In just a few months, those stout electric blue bikes have zigzagged their way into the fabric of our city.

Now Bronx’s bikers are gearing up to find those shiny new Citibikes a home in the Boogie Down borough.

“Whenever a new station pops up, I think ‘Where’s ours?’” said Jill Guidera, Field Organizer at Transportation Alternatives, a bike activist group.

Bronx’s would-be bike sharers will need to prove that the city’s poorest borough is worth the investment. Citibike launched on May 27 with a fleet of just below 6,000 bikes spread across the dense areas deemed most likely to use them: Manhattan south of 59th street and downtown Brooklyn.

The bikes have done big business. Citibike is privately owned and its organizers have declared the program a smash success, with hundreds of thousands of registered subscriptions to date. An annual membership costs $95, a weekly pass $25 and a 24-hour membership $9.95.

Citibike has since expanded to Williamsburg and there are concrete plans in the works for additional bikes in Long Island City, Greenpoint and part of Bedford-Stuyvesant, according to an interactive station map on the Department of Transportation (DOT) website.

But the bikes have yet to come anywhere near the Bronx. Cyclists here needn’t hold their breath: Citibike does “wish to expand” the bike share program to the Boogie-Down borough but would require additional sponsorship funding, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation (DOT) said in an email.

Citibank has already shelled out $41 million for the project’s naming rights, with Mastercard sponsoring the payment sites for an additional $6.5 million.

The borough’s cycling advocates are distributing surveys in an effort to show demand for the bikes.

“There are folks here that would use it as a public transit choice. We would love for it to be here,” she said.

Guidera imagines bike-sharing racks dotting the borough’s major public transportation hubs and being installed near landmarks like Yankee Stadium. She also pictures cyclists pedaling into Manhattan over the 3rd Avenue Bridge.

Since Citibike’s May kickoff, elected officials in brownstone Brooklyn and areas of western Queens have started petitions to get in on the action.

The reaction in the Bronx has been more lukewarm, though Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he’d love to see the bike share in the area because of the health benefits of exercise and lower air pollution.

Olga Luz Tirado, the executive director of the Bronx Tourism Council, said that she’d like to see the bike share as well but hedged on whether the program would be popular.

“In principle I think it’s a good idea, but we need more data,” she said.

Bronx’s bike lovers will have plenty of time to make their case. Citibank’s licensing deal with the bikes is slated for at least six years. Until then, Bronxites will have to make do with local bike shops, at least one of which is in no rush to see Citibike expand here.

“I don’t see it working out here. It’ll take away from the mom and pops,” said Joseph Maldoneo, who runs Castle Hills Bikes in Throgs Neck.

Ben Kochman can be reach via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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