Bike Shops Assess Citi Bike

Citi Bike share stations are a common site in NYC. (Photo by Shinya Suzuki, Creative Commons license)

Citi Bike share stations are a common site in NYC. (Photo by Shinya Suzuki, Creative Commons license)

The Citi Bike program, despite all the controversies surrounding it in the beginning, is gaining more public acceptability. Now it’s not just putting more pedaling passengers on the city roads, but also affecting local bike businesses, in both positive and negative ways, reports The Villager.

Tribeca’s Gotham Bikes is one of the program’s beneficiaries. The manager at the store, who identified himself as “Ben W.,” attributed an increase in its overall sales to the bike-share program.

“It’s getting more people on the road, more people learning about the sport and getting involved,” he said.

James Ryan, who works at Danny’s Cycles in Gramercy, believed the program offers a good option for biking lovers.

“They can try out a bike without committing to buying one,” James Ryan said. “It makes a more comfortable biking environment in the city because there are a lot more bikes, too.”

Ryan also reported a spike in business at Danny’s Cycles since the start of the bike-share program.

“A lot of people come in for bike gear, and we’ve sold a lot of helmets,” he noted.

But the program is not good news for every bike business. Frank Arroyo, who sells and rents bikes at Frank’s Bike Shop, in business since 1976 at its current Lower East Side location on Grand Street, said his rental business was down by 90 percent since the Citi Bikes were rolled out in May this year.

Arroyo lost his customers, mainly European tourists, to the Citi Bike station close to his shop on the corner of Grand and Henry Streets. It was moved after a petition on moveon.org for its relocation gathered 1,000 signatures. However, Citi Bike’s Twitter account says the relocation is temporary for utility construction in the street.

“I was grateful, and it was quite an honor to see how many people responded on my behalf,” Arroyo said of the petition effort. “It was really nice to see that people care. But they have flooded the place with them,” he said of the Department of Transportation, which installs the bike racks.

Arroyo believes relocation of one station may do little to help his business.

“If you put it in front of a hotel, customers are going to walk out of the hotel and use it,” he said.

Unlike Arroyo, Ben from Gotham Bikes believes that the program has contributed to an increase in sales at his shop.

“People have used the bike-share and realized how great it is to bike in the city, then decide that they want something nicer for themselves,” he noted.

Christian Farrell of Waterfront Bicycle Shop, on West Street just north of Christopher Street, says despite initial concerns about the program, he was happy to see people on the bikes.

Consisting of equal parts tourists and locals, his customers get a better rental deal at his shop because, despite charging only $10 for a daily rental, the bike-share program requires cyclists to check their bikes in at a bike station every half hour. His store, on the other hand, charges $10 for the first hour, $5 for the second, and $2.50 per hour after that.

“Six hours with Waterfront Bicycle Shop will cost a customer $25,” he said. “With Citi Bike, a six-hour rental will cost $126 [if the rider doesn’t re-dock his or her bike at a station every half hour]. Our rentals always include a helmet, a basket and a lock.”

Like Farrell, Andrew Crooks, owner of NYC Velo, at 64 Second Ave. also is not sure how the use of Citi Bikes is impacting his business.

“It seemed like a great idea, but one that would be difficult to implement,” Crooks said of the Citi Bike program. He said he worried about inexperienced riders’ lack of awareness of biking rules and backlash from non-cyclists. However, he said, it’s still too early to tell if his business has been impacted.

Overall, Crooks, thinks bike-sharing is good for the city.

“I believe that the program is a positive step forward for New York City,” he said, “and will prove to benefit New York City cycling conditions — in terms of greater acceptance, safety and accessibility.”

[Editor’s note: On August 28, The Lo-Down reported restoration of the Citi Bike station at Henry Street and Grand Street. The area is poorly served by public transportation, and while some residents rallied to support Frank’s Bike Shop, others had welcomed the bike station.]

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