NYC's Citi Bikes Are Stuck In A Repair Shop in Brooklyn, But Meanwhile The Program is Growing

Citi Bike is a modern success story. In just over a year, its bikes have pedaled 20 million miles. In spite of New York's infamously perilous streets, none of the bikers has had a fatal accident. The program is the largest bike-share program in the U.S., and it keeps getting steadily more popular — and yet, according to the New York Post, a third of Citi Bikes are sitting in a repair shop. What gives?

Citi Bike had an undeniably rocky start, but one year on and over 105,000 members — who pay an annual fee of $95 — are dependent on the program's 6,200 bikes. Over 8 million trips have been made.There are now talks of growth, with new investors being approached to fund more bikes in parts of New York that aren't being served, like Queens, and certain areas of Brooklyn. The New York Times reports that there are talks about hiking the membership rates to $140, now, though that's a question being mulled over by Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration. As Kim Velsey of the New York Observer put it:

It’s no longer an experiment. It’s now a part of thousands of New Yorkers’ daily commutes, errands and social lives. And many more are clamoring to use it, and would, if the program expanded beyond a select group of Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods.
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Still, there have been issues. In March, the New York Daily News ran an exclusive about the Citi Bike's doomed repair system, which, it turned out, was on the decline. The repair rate of broken docks fell from 64 percent in August (already much lower than the 99 percent rate the program agreed to in its contract) to 50 percent in January. Less than 40 percent of Citi Bikes were getting their mandated monthly check in December.

Considering all of this, it's perhaps surprising that — according to Post, who quote mechanic Timur Mukhodinov — 1,900 bicycles are still waiting in a warehouse to be fixed.Nearly a third of its total supply. (However, a Citi Bike spokesperson told the Post that the number was closer to 1,184.)

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“[W]e don’t know if [the bicycles in the warehouse needing repair] will ever meet zero, because that’s something that’s fueled by the users every single day,” the Post quotes Mukhodinov as saying.

Maybe what it comes down to is this: the bikes are so popular that the size of the program is now out-reaching its resources. As it stands, it's the only privately-funded program of its kind in the U.S.; that may soon (have to) change. “Bike-sharing will continue to evolve as will the cities in which it exists,” a consultant for Washington D.C.’s regional services told Bloomberg. With more funding will surely come more bikes and more workers — and with them, less time in warehouses.

Regardless, whether because the bikes are in use or in the shop, if you get to Penn Station by 8:30, chances are, you won't be able to find one. But the fact that you're looking says it all.