Before the fabric of the thirty minute news cycle was torn asunder by a brave man in Hong Kong, New York City's bike share program demanded a steady stream of eyeballs because it is new, potentially life-changing, and plagued with technical problems. But when attempting to find new crevasses of Citi Bike criticism, try not to forget the first facet of its appeal: the friggin' bikes have existed for less than two weeks!
Ginia Bellafante, who already has one wary bike share column under her byline, takes Dorothy "Death by Bicycle" Rabinowitz to task in her column this week for her "lunacy" and "crazy-lady assertions" about bike share. But then Bellafante uses a visit to a DOT helmet giveaway outside the Rutgers Houses to discuss how the program is failing to reach low-income New Yorkers.
The line for helmets was very long, and yet few of the people I spoke to were actually residents of the Rutgers Houses or any of the neighboring public housing. I did, however, meet a svelte Argentine woman in running clothes who had come from the Upper East Side.
By the end of the afternoon, 455 helmets were given away. The line was supposed to close at 6:30 p.m., but by 5:30 or so, it was clear that there would be no helmets left if it remained open much longer. About that time, Marcos Smith and his girlfriend attempted to join the line to get a helmet for her. They were told that, alas, it was too late; that there would be nothing left by the time they reached the tables. When I asked Mr. Smith where he lived, he pointed to one of the towers of the Rutgers Houses right in front of us.
Only 200 people have signed up for Citi Bike using the $30 public housing/low-income discount out of 33,000 registered members, and this is definitely a problem, an issue worthy of scrutiny. Still: thirteen days! 312 hours!
Bellafante does note that the DOT plans on having more helmet giveaways, but doesn't mention how many more: eleven! That's two less than the number of days Citi Bike has been in New York.