New York's well-to-do bike-sharing naysayers are on a roll. Opponents of the city's long-awaited Citibike program, which has been in development for years and will begin service on Memorial Day — no matter what these preservationist condo owners have to say — notched several significant victories against New York's Department of Transportation over the past week, after a month-plus of delirious outrage, a small journalism scandal, and destructive vandalism to the solar-powered bike racks installed throughout posh Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan. Last week, city workers permanently relocated two Citibike racks, one in Manhattan's West Village and another in Brooklyn Heights, after neighborhood residents loudly complained that the bike racks were clogging street traffic. Certain activists, meanwhile, have criticized Citibike by way of less conventional methods, like dressing up as Uncle Sam (to protest a rack's SoHo location) or smashing the glass front of a rack located in the Financial District.
Maybe the strangest victory came about due to a concocted New York Post story. On Tuesday the Gotham tabloid, no stranger to manufactured scandals, reported that a Citibike rack on West 13th Street impeded paramedics from transporting a sick 92-year-old man from his apartment building to an ambulance parked on the street. (The Post "quoted no sources other than residents of 175 W. 13th Street and their lawyer, who are suing the city to have the bike-share station removed," StreetsBlog.org noticed.) The F.D.N.Y. immediately challenged the report, telling Gothamist that ambulance staff "had absolutely no problem accessing [the] building," but by Tuesday morning city officials had quietly chopped the offending bike rack in half, removing eight bike bays in the process.
You may notice a trend here. While bike racks have appeared in neighborhoods both wealthy (like Tribeca) and less-than-wealthy (Bedford-Stuyvesant, in Brooklyn) the loudest protestations — and actual litigation — have come from the residents of the former. Of course, space in wealthy neighborhoods is by definition scarce, and the affluent have resources, in both time and money, to wage legal battles that the rest of New York does not. Hopefully this isn't a sign of Citibike's future. After all, Citibike is designed to make the city more accessible, not pit certain groups against each other. And the program hasn't even started yet! Perhaps these noisy litigants should ride one the program's bikes before waging another lawsuit — or vandalizing its equipment.