Navy blue bikes with a transformed Citibank logo became an inseparable part of the New York City skyline this summer. After numerous complains about the locations of docking station, cyclists’ behavior on the streets and safety issues, the city seems to be getting used to Citi Bikes. And according to local bike shop owners, each Citi Bike cyclist is a potential new customer.
“People are going to get on, ride around, see how convenient, how easy, how nice it is to be in this city on a bicycle, and eventually they are going to want their own bicycle,” said Brian Gluck, owner of the Red Lantern Bicycles on Myrtle Avenue. “I have always been behind Citi Bikes.”
Citi Bikes is the biggest bicycle sharing system in the United States. It was supposed to be launched in July 2012 in New York City, but because of some technical issues and damage from Hurricane Sandy, the system opened for operation in May. Citi Bikes targets commuters by selling them on the convenience of the system, which gives users the ability to pick up and drop off a bike at any docking station around the city. A cyclist can get the bike from a station next to their home and leave it on another one close to their destination point.
“Citi Bikes are very convenient,” said Mike Rodriguez, owner of the Bicycle Station bike shop on Park Avenue. “You don’t have to drag it up in a walk-up building or think where to leave it at work.”
The shiny blue bikes attract new riders who were not opposed riding a bike to work, but didn’t want the trouble of owning one.
“I don’t need to pull it up to the fourth floor like I do with my own bike,” said Vadim Skyvood, 29, a fashion photographer. “I like it because it is anywhere where I need to go and I don’t need to worry about making sure it is safe when I leave it.”
Both Rodriguez and Gluck said they are sure that commuters will soon tire of sharing a seat, noting that they believe people will want their own unlimited-use bikes.
“Every half an hour, 45 minutes getting a new bicycle, having to walk to station to pick up the bicycle – they will just kind of get sick of that,” Gluck said.
Right now local bike shop owners admitted that they have not seen a measurable effect on sales, only seeing recent sales of bike accessories increase 15 to 30 percent.
“They have a helmet program where they give you $10 off the helmet, so we sold a lot of helmets,” Gluck said.
Shop owners said they are sure next spring will bring a real bike rush.
“People are going to wake up from the winter, thinking, ‘oh, I don’t want to do this again’ and will come in here and buy a bike,” Gluck said. “We will be rocking and rolling!”