Remembering the NYC Citibike backlash, on their fifth anniversary

Originally published at:


We have this in my town. It’s called DIVVY.
It costs us almost $2000 per bike per year to subsidize.

The city renewed their contract with DIVVY for another year but I think it will be canned after that.

Very similar to the anti smoking in restaurants rhetoric that followed exactly the same format as I moved around the country in the 1990s (although I can’t claim any credit for it).
I saw exactly the same arguments get trotted out in Boulder, CO in 1990, Minnesota in the mid 90s, Connecticut in the late 90s, and the UK in the 2000s

  • People will no longer go out to eat or drink
  • Restaurants and Bars will close down
  • Tax revenue to towns/cities/states will fall
  • Communism / socialism will result

None of these things ever happened, but the arguments were always identical.


Wow, just imagine the reactions if they try to build a tramway !


The first two have actually happened to some degree in the UK, but that has nothing to do with the smoking ban and everything to do with austerity.


What does it cost the city to subsidize private automobile driving, per car per year? Transit riding, per passenger per year? It is entirely possible that the bike share is an exceptionally good deal.


Off hand that sound high, although I don’t have a good sense of the actual costs involved in getting bikes, rebalancing across town, etc. It does make me wonder if it would be better to just buy free sharable bikes.

Here in Madison, WI we went from shared bikes painted red, to pay per ride (B-cycles is the brand). So my bet is that the shared bike model is actually worse off, but I could be wrong.

You should contact your local government representatives to understand why it costs that much and how it compares to alternates.

1 Like

Anti-bike ideology isn’t just a NYC thing. In Louisville the Mayor is trying hard to make it a bicycle friendly city, and his GOP opponent for the fall election is seriously campaigning against bike lanes. The funny thing is that many of the bike critics here that I personally know are in fact morbidly obese baby boomers who haven’t been on a bicycle since Jimmy Carter was president.


That right there - how much does it compare to alternatives - is often surprising.

My city built a downtown bike grid, about 8 km of physically separated bike lanes. There was wailing, outrage, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments, at the expense. Which, based on ridership in the first year, was about $3 per network user per day.

Now they’re building an overpass over a set of train tracks on an largish road in the Southwest of the city. Long overdue, everyone can agree that it’s needed. It’s projected to cost $1,300 per road user per day. Not a peep out of the budget hawks.


The city does not subsidize the costs of shared automobiles.(aka Rental Cars)
We already have LOTS of bike owners and riders in the city and we have designated bike lanes as well. They are not anti-bike.
But we have to pay for and maintain the installation of the Docking Stations and whatever else the City has agreed to with DIVVY.

DIVVY came to the City Council meeting last Fall to offer any reasons WHY the City should continue to subsidize the service and had a very difficult time doing so. Despite that, the City reluctantly voted to extend the contract for one more year. There just are not enough users to make it worthwhile. One alderman suggested the City could simply buy bikes for people and still save money.


It really depends upon the city and the company. Here in Munich, we have two liked services (MVG Rad and DB Call-A-Bike) and one truly hated service (oBike). The two liked ones are run by the local transportation company (MVG) and the German rail (DB). oBike was a company from Singapore whose bikes were cheap crap and were vandalised with glee.

1 Like

They’re in my town too. They’re sponsored by Nike, and it’s called BikeTown. With the branding, I cannot for the life of me not call them “Bye-keys”


The city probably doesn’t subsidize rental cars any more than it subsidized owner-operated cars. It still subsidizes driving as a whole in a wide variety of ways. So the subsidy to drivers of rental cars is probably mostly the same as the subsidy to drivers of their own cars - but there is still a subsidy to drivers of rental cars.

It pays for and maintains on-street parking facilities - some of which are metered, but many of which doubtless aren’t, and the meters are mostly there to encourage turnover, not cover the cost of maintaining the paving, the foregone taxes that other land uses could generate. If it’s anything like my city, it pays for road maintenance mostly of property taxes, which are levied on everyone more or less equally, regardless of whether they get around by a method that incurs wear and tear on the roads or not. etc. etc.


The City has a projected shortfall of $3mil for 2019 so they are in the process of surveying residents about programs that are not Revenue-neutral to find out what is most important to Residents.
Operational costs are around $200K per year for 10 Docking Stations with Bikes.
Revenue is about $68K per year.
The shortfall is either paid for by the City or through Sponsorships (ads).
At the last City Council Meeting w/DIVVY it was pointed out that Sponsorships were not as easy to get as projected. Revenue has also been about 50% of projections for the last 2 years.

1 Like

If the City provided a subsidy for people to Rent Cars, then I would say you have a valid argument, but they don’t.

“It’s the bicyclists who veer in and out of the sidewalk, empowered by the city administration, with the idea that they are privileged”

I doubt the program is a problem - but cyclists not following the rules of the road is. I’ve nearly been run over twice in the last month alone by cyclists blowing through red lights while I’m walking through the crosswalk.



Dammit! You had me hoping there for a moment…


One day we’ll figure out the tiny thing that really will irretrievably lead us into Communism/Socialism. :wink:


She so desperately wanted a new bicycle for her seventh birthday. Instead she got dress shoes and a sweater. Bitterness is a powerful emotion.


I like the way you think!