Confirmed: Citi Bike Had a Rough First Year

By
Julie Iovine returns a Citi Bike to a docking station in Union square on May 29, 2013 in New York City. Citi Bike, the long awaited bike sharing program that launched over the Memorial Day weekend in New York, provides 6,000 bikes which are available for short-term rental at 330 stations in Manhattan below 59th Street and parts of Brooklyn. Until June 2nd only members of the Citi Bike program can use the bikes. The bikes will rent daily for $9.95 (plus tax ) or weekly for $25 and will be limited to trips of 30 minutes each. More than 16,000 people have signed up to be members so far.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Citi Bike has had its issues, and thanks to an audit released Friday by city comptroller Scott Stringer, you now have some hard evidence that you weren’t the only one who couldn’t get a bike into the docking station. The audit found that the company managing the bike share (New York City Bike Share, LLC) failed to do monthly maintenance checks on all bikes.

Specifically, in November 2013, Citi Bike only inspected 28 percent of the 6,000 total bikes in its fleet. Combined with December and January 2014, the bike-share company surveyed only about one third of all Citi Bikes, though a series of bike-inspector layoffs in October preceded this drop-off. 

Other big problems found in the audit, which covers a full 12-month period from Citi Bike’s launch in May 2013, included a failure to inspect the stations every two weeks as required, and a slow response time to deal with complaints or other equipment and cleanliness issues. Faulty connectivity to the main system at certain bike stations also caused some snafus, sometimes messing up riders’ ability to buy trips or use a credit card at the kiosks. Bike inspectors were also supposed to do “on-street” spot checks, but did a poor job of recording the results of those inspections, says the audit, so no one actually knows if they got done.

Comptroller Stringer had some tough words regarding these management and maintenance lapses, saying in a statement that the bike share left “New Yorkers in the lurch,” though he also acknowledged that we’re kind of stuck with them, calling them “part of our urban landscape.” Stringer also blasted the Department of Transportation, which fired back, saying the audit period “predates” improvements they’ve already made to Citi Bike, reports the Observer.

But despite some of the dismal findings, bike inspections did tick up during the spring to 73 percent in April 2014, so things are ostensibly getting better and your odds of getting on the crappiest of Citi Bikes is hopefully decreasing. Plus, New York City Bike Share’s parent company, Alta Bicycle Share, was recently acquired, and the incoming CEO said new management would mean better service and that the company has already begun “the hard work of reinventing Citi Bike.”