During the past week, we've heard some grumbling from Citi Bike users who say that they continue to have problems finding an open space to dock their bikes at night in the East Village. The people we talked to say that they are fans of the program, but are growing frustrated by the distribution problems.
The Times reported yesterday on the program's "tricky juggling act" to "remove bikes from fully occupied stations, and to refill stations before the supply runs dry."
Meanwhile, there are stories of riders on the phone with Citi Bike reps, trekking from Astor Place to Avenue C and back to Astor Place in search of empty docking stations.
We walked around Wednesday night and found six full docking stations... and watched people ride by looking for a place to park. (Maybe this leads to some abandonment issues?)
We asked a few East Village residents to share their experiences... the following quotes are from residents who are fully supportive of the bike-share program. (For now, anyway...)
From a resident who lives on Avenue A and East Sixth Street:
"The availability just follows the rhythms of the day — in the mornings during the rush to go to work there are no bikes, and after work there are no [parking spots] because everyone has brought them back.
When I first decided to use the bikes to ride to the train, I was late to work a few days because I searched a few stations around me, and couldn't find any bikes. Evenings have the exact opposite problem; on Monday evening, I checked 6th and B, 7th and A, then finally caught someone pulling out at St. Mark's and 1st and rushed to get into the spot.
I wasn't the only one slowly riding around in circles waiting for a free spot; I noticed at least 2 other riders that I kept intersecting. Somehow, weekends aren't that much better. On Saturday, I was late to meet a friend because I spent time again doing the checking-all-of-the-Citi Bike-stations dance. On a Saturday afternoon!
So, unfortunately, I think I might need to shift my thinking around the bikes as something that I can use when the opportunity arises, versus a reliable, regular transportation method.
I think our neighborhood really needs additional stations. I originally imagined a huge boost to the quality of life in the area, but it's not quite there yet."
And this is from Matt:
"There have been a few signs of improvement recently, but not being able to find/dock a bike is still a frustrating issue. It used to be that if I left for work after 8:35 a.m., I knew not to expect to get a bike at my usual rack at 13th and A. Now it's less predictable — some days there might be a half-full rack, others all the bikes might have the red light on, and other's it'll be completely empty even if I'm early.
Same thing happens at night – if I leave work after a certain hour, I prepare myself for a trip around the East Village looking for a spot. Monday was a new record, when it took me 7 docks to find an open slot (13th and A, 10th and A, 14th and B, 12th and D, 9th and C, 5th and C, and 6th and B, until finally catching someone leaving at 7th and A). I think the most frustrating thing about those joyrides is that the app consistently says that openings are available at those docks.
I love the idea of Citi Bikes and still think they're the most exciting thing to happen to the city in a long time, but I hope they can pull this together."