Times really have changed since 2013, when the city's NIMBYs queued up at public forums to deliver fiery statements about the ways in which Citi Bike had or was going to destroy their way of life.
When DOT reps last night unveiled the proposed locations of 39 new racks to be installed on the Upper West Side, residents reacted not with rage or fury, but with something else completely. Something that looked a lot like...enthusiasm.
Motivate, the company that took over Citi Bike operations from Alta Bicycle Share last year, has announced its intention to double the size of the bike share program by the end of 2017, bringing the total number of bikes to 12,000 in 700 stations citywide. Residents had several opportunities to weigh in on which of 500 potential locations they preferred, and last night's meeting was their first time seeing what DOT had in mind.
The room at Goddard Riverside Community Center was packed, filled with the kind of frenetic energy probably seen during the annual lottery. But as the station locations were revealed, the pre-loaded rage seemed to dissipate, with many residents even wondering why there weren't going to be more big blue bikes coming to their neighborhood.
One man struck by how few stations on Central Park W. Lots of people commenting about where they want stations, not where they don't.
— Lauren Evans (@LaurenFaceEvans) May 12, 2015
Even the expected complaints about the loss of parking were at a minimum, though perhaps that's because DOT spokespeople did not have on hand the exact number of spaces that would be lost. (We've reached out to DOT and will update the story with those numbers when they're available.)
Many residents, initially jarred at seeing 500 potential station sites, were relieved the number had been cut down to the somewhat more reasonable 39. "I think that when we first saw the maps of the Upper West Side, it indicated so very many potential sites," said Steve Anderson, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, adding that the DOT exercised "great restraint and responsibility" in selecting the locations. "I think that many of us may have an issue with a particular location, but I think that the enormity of it is manageable. I think they did a damn good job."
Motivate spokeswoman Dani Simons attributes the relatively peaceful unveiling to a combination of factors, namely, people's existing familiarity with Citi Bike, plus greater attention by DOT to making sure the community had the opportunity to offer their input. (In addition to two public planning workshops, DOT has participated in more than 20 meetings and events with Community Board 7.)
"A lot of people on the UWS obviously work in places where Citi Bike is already in existence," Simons told me after the meeting. "I think there's that, and there's that DOT and Citi Bike both have done more this time to have more conversations in advance of the stations coming in."
Some in attendance were disappointed there won't be more racks, which are each expected to hold around 35 bikes.
"When we first saw the proposal there were like, 500 locations, and we knew that they wouldn't all be actual locations," said resident Karen McDonald. "But now with the 39, it seems like maybe there's too little."
But perhaps the best summary of the relatively low-simmering meeting was the assessment of one elderly woman, heard on the phone outside the doors.
"It's a stupid meeting," she said, pausing. "But not as stupid as they usually are."
The full slideshow with proposed locations is viewable below.