Weather or not, here they come.
Citi Bike had its best week ever last week, with the blue bikes handling 867,838 rides, or roughly 124,000 per day, Streetsblog has learned, an astounding figure that is only partly due to last week’s pristine spring weather.
That’s up 30 percent from the 671,000-plus rides from the same May 7-13 period last year, and beats the prior record of 864,559 rides during a week in August 2022.
The new record was set with strong ridership on Thursday, Friday and Saturday last week, with each day surpassing 130,000 rides. Citi Bike only had 12 total in all of 2022 that exceeded 130,000 rides. (The single-day record remains 138,694 on Sept. 14, 2022, a Ruthian figure that, like all records, will someday fall.)
“We will never get tired of saying it, no matter how many times it happens: more New Yorkers are hitting the road on bikes — especially Citi Bikes — and shattering ridership records,” said Patrick Knoth, the associate general manager of Citi Bike at Lyft. “Riders have made Citi Biking a verb for a reason — it is a fast, reliable, equitable and sustainable transportation option that connects riders with everything our great city has to offer.”
Slow rollout. It is likely that all the dark blue areas in this map will get Citi Bike by the end of this calendar year. There are no plans for further expansion at this time. Map: DOT (with Streetsblog)
Some of the ridership increases can be explained by the gradual increase in Citi Bike’s footprint in the city — the Lyft-owned company now has nearly 30,000 bikes across 1,800 stations — but not all of it, given that the bike share system still excludes whole areas of town, including all of Staten Island, half of Brooklyn and The Bronx, and most of Queens. Citi Bike leadership points out that the limited zone also means that the majority of Citi Bike riders are coming in areas where the fleet’s 181,000 members are most likely using Citi Bike to replace car trips. (An annual membership, which offers unlimited rides on non-electric bikes, costs $205, up from $185 late last year.)
Reduced fare membership is also up, with 15,774 people signed up for the $5-a-month program, up nearly 40 percent from the 11,365 members this time last year. During last week’s record ridership, reduced fare members took about 12.5 percent of the total rides, evidence that residents of NYCHA houses and clients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program want access to low-cost bike rides.
Reduced fare members took an average of 238 trips in 2022, which is 77 percent more than full boat Citi Bike members, the company said.
Overall this year, Citi Bike ridership is up 26 percent vs. the same four-plus months of the year, the company said.
Even with the gradual post-pandemic recovery of many transit systems, Citi Bike would still rank as the 30th biggest transit system in the country.
Citi Bike’s success is its greatest challenge: Just like with most transit systems, the coverage area tends to remain static; beyond the end of this year, Citi Bike has no territorial expansion plan, though the company says it will continue to add docks and bikes in high-use areas to improve bike availability (for instance, since 2022, the company said it has increased the number of Midtown docks by 39 percent and the number of docks in the Financial District by 27 percent).
By the end of 2024, the company says it will have 40,000 bikes in place.
Lyft said that since the first quarter of 2022, the company now has 34 percent more staffers for its rebalancing effort, and will increase the staff again through June.
Lyft currently does not get money from city taxpayers, unlike literally every form of public transit, despite having far more riders than another city-subsidized mode: the NYC Ferry system. (On its best week in the fourth quarter of 2022, the ferry system carried 150,000 riders, according to the latest data.)
Then-candidate Eric Adams said in 2020 that he would publicly subsidize Citi Bike to enable a fuller, more equitable, expansion, but he has failed to do so. An email to City Hall on Monday was not responded to (update: until after initial publication of this story — see note at bottom). Cities such as Boston and Washington put public money into bike share, though conservatives often complain.
Citi Bike is also doing well in Jersey City, which was cheered on by the city’s mayor, Steven Fulop:
We started the largest bike share program in NJ. Please see attached the latest Citi Bike JC Quarterly Report for Service Year 9, Quarter 1. A few highlights below:
• Significant ridership increases system wide, with record high winter ridership this… pic.twitter.com/0Xy6FQBL6V
— Steven Fulop (@StevenFulop) May 13, 2023
Update: After initial publication of this story, City Hall sent over a statement from a spokesperson who declined to attach his or her name. The statement did not address the specifics of our question:
“Mayor Adams is committed to providing New Yorkers equitable, safe, and convenient bike share service, and these numbers show that our administration’s support for Citi Bike has helped the system reach exciting new heights. We continue to discuss with our service provider how to achieve these mutual goals and make this service available to even more New Yorkers.”