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PERSPECTIVES

Citi Bike at 10

May 30, 2023
Edward Skyler, Head of Enterprise Services and Public Affairs

Ten years since New Yorkers first experienced the joy of riding a Citi Bike, the program has far surpassed our early expectations to become an essential part of New York life. It’s radically changed people’s mobility for the better — providing a reliable means for millions to explore the city.

New Yorkers embrace the convenience of Citi Bike, with riders consistently breaking ridership records, whether they’re a parent hauling groceries, a worker commuting to their shift, or a student returning home from school.

Citi is committed to supporting this sustainable and healthy way for New Yorkers to get around town. That’s why we recently decided to continue our sponsorship with Lyft, and to extend our title sponsorship for another 10 years through 2034.

How it all began

Starting in 2009, then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (who I worked for before joining Citi) and NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan proposed bringing bikeshare to New York. While the concept was already successful in Europe, there were doubts about whether it would work in New York.

Rather than using public money to fund the program, the Bloomberg administration invited the private sector to partner to make it financially viable. This was unfamiliar territory for companies — vastly different from sponsoring a stadium or film festival. Within the U.S., no business quite knew the risks of associating their brand with a bikeshare program, given the possibility of accidents or other unfortunate events.

Fortunately, Citi saw opportunity and was willing to take the risk. We knew the public-private partnership with New York City, our hometown, would help improve the way that residents get around. And we saw the incredible value that could come from pioneering at scale a new communication channel — bikes.

In May 2012, we announced our title sponsorship of an affordable transportation mode called “Citi Bike.” Our support has helped to create, install and run the nation's largest bikeshare program at no cost to taxpayers. In doing so, we helped create the city’s first new transportation network in a century.

Citi Bike today

From launch, the Citi Bike program was like lightning in a bottle.

The program encourages millions to make biking a part of their lives: last year, an astounding 1.5 million unique riders hopped on, and riders have logged 339 million miles in trips since its launch. The network has expanded to 1,700 stations and counting, approaching 30,000 total bikes across NYC, Jersey City and Hoboken, New Jersey — a major increase from the initial 6,000 bikes at 300 stations. Importantly, low-income riders can benefit from a Reduced Fare Bikeshare membership at $5 per month, thanks to Healthfirst, the Citi Bike program's official wellness partner.

Thanks to all of those Citi Bike riders on the street, the city has also become more welcoming to cyclists over the years. The effect is self-reinforcing: the Citi Bike program’s growth and the overall surge of biking in New York City is possible in part because of the city’s commitment to investing in safe, connected bike lanes. Roughly 1,500 miles of bike lanes now crisscross the city. Those new lanes encourage more people to ride, and the cycle continues.

The program has also become, well, pretty cool. Citi Bike has emerged as an iconic cultural reference, with celebrities from Leonardo Di Caprio to Tom Brady and Sarah Jessica Parker all spotted on the ubiquitous blue bikes. It seems like one can’t watch a television episode or movie set in New York without spotting a Citi Bike station.

The road ahead

Certainly, residents felt the program’s impact most profoundly during the pandemic. Ridership reached new heights as city dwellers sought a dependable, safe mode of transportation. When the city began to reopen, Citi Bike was there, supporting its recovery.

As the pandemic made clear, our economic and physical health, our environment and our social welfare are all linked. More than a fun, affordable mode of transportation, Citi Bike bridges gaps in the city’s transportation network. It extends inclusion and economic opportunity to more people in more areas of the city, making life a little easier for millions. This sponsorship aligns with our $1 trillion commitment to sustainable finance by 2030, by contributing to a sustainable mode of transportation to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We know our decision to embrace Citi Bike was the right one, allowing us to partner with New York City to change the city’s streetscape and the everyday lives of millions of New Yorkers. Our colleagues take pride in contributing to the program’s success, and as we look forward to another decade of Citi Bike, we can’t wait to hit the road ahead.