One Year Later, New Yorkers Love "Totalitarian" Bike Share

Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

Colbert

One year ago, New York City launched its bike share program to the chagrin of a Wall Street Journal editorial board member who claimed it was a "totalitarian" instrument of "aesthetic torture" that has "appalled" New Yorkers. However, the program has survived conservative attacks on it and proven immensely popular, with nearly 9 million rides in its first year.

Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of Wall Street Journal's editorial board, made waves last year by railing against the launch of Citi Bike, New York City's bike share program. In a video op-ed on WSJ Live, Rabinowitz derided the "totalitarian"-backed program that has "begrimed" NYC neighborhoods, saying the city is "helpless" to the wishes of its "autocratic" mayor and the bike lobby. 

Even after Rabinowitz' argument was mocked on both the Colbert Report and The Daily Show, Rabinowitz stuck to her vendetta, dubbing the bike racks "instruments of aesthetic torture," and her colleagues defended her. She is not alone among conservatives for displaying an irrational hatred of bicyclists. Soon afterward, Fox Business' Melissa Francis called the Citi Bike racks a "nuisance" and an "eyesore," putting it frankly: "I hate these bikes." But they have proven to be the exception rather than the rule.

Rabinowitz claimed that she represented "the majority of [NYC] citizens" who are equally "appalled" by the bike share program, but polling has shown the opposite with even the Wall Street Journal itself dubbing the bike share "popular." Before the program was launched, polls from Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute found that 74 percent of New Yorkers polled agreed the bike rental program was a "good idea." One month after its launch, the same institute found that only 20 percent were opposed to the program, with the majority of every "age, income party, gender and educational group" supporting the program:

Quinnipiac Poll

The program is the only system in North America that has usage rates as high as European cities like Paris and Barcelona, having provided over 8.75 million bike rides and signing up more than 100,000 annual members.  The popularity of the annual memberships has led the program, which is the only large-scale bike share program in the United States without public funding, to struggle financially. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that experts are "[b]ullish" on Citi Bike, saying by increasing its prices it can thrive.

As for Rabinowitz' warning that bicyclists are the city's "most important danger,"statistics have shown that the program has not led to an increase in cyclist collisions even though it accounts for nearly a third of all bike traffic in its service area. Among the first 500,000 rides on Citi Bikes, there were only three injuries -- after five million trips, no riders were killed and only about two dozen mostly minor injuries had been reported. A report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking found that New York's bike share may have actually helped make the city safer, finding that cities with high percentages of bicycle commuters have the fewest cycling fatalities in part because drivers become more conscious of the presence of cyclists and cities build infrastructure to protect them.

As of December 2013, the program accounted for over 11.2 million miles, the benefits of which are illustrated in this infographic:

Bike Share

Posted In
Environment & Science, Energy
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, Fox Business
Person
Melissa Francis, Dorothy Rabinowitz
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