Since Citibike started last year New Yorkers and tourists have made over 14 million trips on the chunky blue bikes. Now, however, local bike stores are claiming the bike share operation is taking away their business. Joe Sykes picks up the story.
Jeff Myers struggles to take a Citibike off the stand on the corner of Hudson and Christopher St in the west village.
UP AMBI: JEFF MYERS TAKING A BIKE FROM A BIKE STAND. (00.07)
UP AMBI: STREET NOISE
He’s on his way home.
MYERS: So I rode Citibike up to the gym, I walked 2 blocks to the gym now I’m riding Citibike up to get food and then I’ll walk home from there(00.06)
Myers has been a Citibike member since it opened in May of last year. He says he used to own a bike but it got stolen and….anyway, Citibike is just more convenient.
MYERS: Given some of the weather issues we have in New York I think having to leave your bike if it rains, whatever the case may, knowing that I can ride Citibike one way and take a taxi or the subway another is my preferred method.(00.12)
FADE DOWN STREET NOISE AMBI
People like Jeff Myers are a problem for George Bliss He runs Hub Bicycles on Charles St. Since bike share began in the city his revenues have plummeted. He used to make around 20% of it from rentals, now it’s just 5% His sales have dropped by half. He says Citibike is only a success because businesses like his laid the groundwork
BLISS: How can a local business that grew a bike culture compete with this invasive weed that comes into the garden(00.10)
Bliss says Citibike crowded so many stations so close to his business. That’s not fair competition. Citibike charges 149 dollars for a yearly pass, the average cost of one of George’s bike is 500 bucks. His daily rental price? More than 4 times what Citibike chargeS.
BLISS: If I had a bakery and suddenly the government starts giving out free bread at 5 locations within 5 blocks, it’s going to put me out of business. The people are going to be happy with their free bread (00.12)
Business is so bad he’s having to close later this year. And he isn’t the only one who’s losing money.
MCKORKELL: I think most businesses would say 10% is pretty critical(00.04)
That’s Charlie McKorkell. He’s got a couple of his Bicycle Habitat stores in Lower Manhattan and a store in Park Slope, out of the Citibike range. He lost 10% of his business in Manhattan after Citibike opened. but his store in Brooklyn actually grew in the same period. He knows George and sympathises with him but he’s a little more sanguine about it… after all… he says
MCKORKELL: It’s business. If I decided to open a store 3 doors down from where George was and I decided to rent bike at 9 dollars and he was renting them at 20. Is that fair? No but everybody understands it is business.”(00:14)
McKorkell says there was a boom in cycling in the city and bike stores opening in the years preceding Citibike.
MCKORKELL: We’re getting to weeding out because there were so many new stores opening in the 3 years previous to that.(00.05)
That boom that led to so many stores opening was actually down to government according to John Orcutt. He’s the guy at the Department of Transportation who was the project manager on Citibike. He says the city added over 450 miles of bike lanes before Citibike opened.
That means more cyclists on the road.
ORCUTT: The more bikes we are seeing on the street the more bikes we se on the street. It’s kind of a virtuous circle.(00.08)
Bike store owners might be in for better days if bike share in DC is any indication. Ben Fried(FREED) is the editor of city infrastructure website Streets Blog. He says bike share has been around for a while in the nation’s Capital and bike store owners are reporting increased profits.
Bike share in Manhattan can only go so far.
FRIED: There’s a limit on the capacity if the bike share system. If you just keep making the streets safer to bike on you’re gonna end up having growth in cycling and growth in sales for bike shops.(00.10)
UP AMBI: BIKE STATION AMBI(00.15)
It might be difficult for a few years, though. On Christopher St, Jeff Myers is on his bike. At the moment Citibike is just easier for him to use,
MYERS: The bike I used to have is more for recreation. That’s what I use it for. This one is…I don’t ride up and down the west side highway because I love it I ride it because it gets me from point A to Point B faster.(00.12)
SYKES: Have a nice journey
MYERS: Thank you Joe. You too. Happy Sunday.(00.03)
FADE DOWN BIKE STATION AMBI:
Myers cycles off to enjoy his Sunday. George Bliss has until December 31st before his store is no more.
Joe Sykes, Columbia Radio News.