UPDATE, Aug. 22, 2018: Citi Bike has released its first 200 e-bikes to accompany its existing fleet of 12,000 traditional bikes in New York City. Although the e-bikes will be distributed and can be used throughout the city, they are being heralded as a way for commuters to get between Manhattan and Brooklyn when the L train closes for repairs next spring.
Citi Bike plans to release 800 additional e-bikes and install four pedal-assist bike docking stations before the train line shutdown. Two of the docking stations will be located in lower Manhattan near the Williamsburg Bridge and the other two will be in Brooklyn.
The e-bikes are also considered a way to increase bike-share accessibility and ease the burden of traditional biking for populations with mobility restrictions, such as seniors. "Adding pedal-assist bikes will make cycling even more fun and also more accessible to populations that have hesitated to hop onto a bike. I look forward to seeing this program grow across New York," Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon said in a statement.
Earlier this year Mayor Bill de Blasio announced legislation to make pedal-assist bikes legal in the city, which went into effect at the end of July.
- Bike-share operator Motivate plans to expand its Citi Bike service in New York ahead of the city's 15-month L train line shutdown next year. Starting next April, L train service will be suspended in Manhattan and will only run in Brooklyn while repairs occur on damage incurred when Superstorm Sandy caused saltwater to flood the tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn in 2012.
- Next spring, Citi Bike will add 1,250 bikes and 2,500 docking positions — through current docking station expansion and the installation of new stations — in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
- Motivate is temporarily adding what it calls a "shuttle" service: 1,000 electric pedal-assist bikes will be available at four docking stations. Citi Bike will also add up to 10 valet stations, which are stations staffed by Citi Bike employees in the system's busiest areas during peak hours.
Cycling advocates certainly will laud the bike-share coverage expansion, regardless of its reason for occurring. The city likely will experience a surge in cycling during the L train shutdown, but the Citi Bike system on its own cannot be expected to completely solve the commuting trouble that will ensue.
The L train is a huge commuter line between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates the subway closure will directly affect 275,000 of the L train's 400,000 daily riders. DOT does have additional ideas for handling the increased transit demand during the shutdown, including expanded bus service, protected bike lanes and pedestrian area improvements and expansions.
Still, Citi Bike will play a significant role in providing New Yorkers with an alternative mobility option. The pedal-assist bikes in particular will be welcome to reduce what many are anticipating to be nightmarish commute times during the 15-month subway closure. "New valet stations and pedal-assist bikes will make Citi Bike an indispensable part of the solutions we are pursuing to meeting the challenges of the L train disruption,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a statement.