Removal of 14/B Citi Bike valet station causing capacity problems in East Village

Back in mid-July, Citi Bikers in the Lower Side Side/East Village received an email announcing that the Citi Bike station at 14th street and Avenue B would be removed. Read the email alert below:

We know you are an avid Citi Bike rider in the East Village so we wanted to let you know tomorrow, Wednesday, July 12th, the station at E 14 St & Ave B will be removed to accommodate L train construction. Our valet service will be moving just down the street to the E 13 St & Ave A Citi Bike station effective tomorrow. Valet service will be available at this station weekdays from 7:30pm-10:30pm daily on a first-come, first-served basis.

As part of the city’s focus on the L Train, the MTA was adding a subway substation entrance in the area, so Citi Bike had to remove any stations that were in and around the new construction. And since that fateful day on July 12th when all the docks were removed, the convenience of using the bikeshare program has dropped dramatically in the areas that the station supports — Alphabet City, Murray Hill, East Village, and the Lower East Side which. That area also serves the huge Peter Cooper/Suyvesant Town complex.

14/B was Citi Bike Station, Valet and Storage Hub

The station at 14/B wasn’t a normal station either — it was one of Citi Bike’s valets. If you’re not familiar with the company’s Valet program, it just means that at time of high-usage, Citi Bike Concierges would man the valet and remove/add bikes to the station as called for. That alone was enough for the station’s removal to send ripples of frustration, but it wasn’t just any old valet station either, it was a “hub” in that Citi Bike storage was literally a 3 second bike ride away on the same side of the street. With bike storage a stone’s throw away, any side of surplus bikes could be managed quickly. AM New York wrote about the bike train operators mentioning the 14/B station.

Friese will load his bicycle train, a custom bike-drawn trailer that pulls makeshift trailers with eight Citi Bikes, at a Stuyvesant Town garage and check his app for the stations that “need love”— usually 14th Street and Avenue B or Seventh Street and Avenue A — before heading out.

Think about it, if a valet is removing bikes from a station because everyone’s coming home from work at 5:30 PM they have to take those bikes somewhere — another station out of immediate area (that has open docks) or they’re sending them off to one of Citi Bike’s hubs. And depending how close or far that hub or station is, it affects how quickly they can service the area and that will impact the program’s effectiveness in that neighborhood.

That’s why the 14/B station was such a hit to the users nearby. It was both a valet and hub at the same time; a place remove bikes and add bikes with immediate access to a storage unit at the ready to store bikes or provide them. When your closest stations was full, you could always count on 14/B to give you what you needed. Not only did the East Village lose a station, but they lost the closet one to the hub.


When Will the 14/B Citi Bike Station Return?

It hasn’t even been two months since they had to move the station, but it feels like it’s been nearly a year in terms of frustration. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something that impacts thousands of people relying on it everyday — each trying to get to work on time or get home as fast as they can.

That’s not Citi Bike’s fault that the city is creating another subway station, but it is Citi Bike’s responsibility to provide solutions to this. They did plan for a nearby “regular” station 13/A (and later 7th/A) to take in the overflow, but they clearly underestimated the density and usage. We’ve hit full on “dockpokalypse” and the promise of nearby valets hasn’t relieved the loss of 14/B by any means.

Finding a dock or a bike when one needs is for from a certainty especially during typically-high commuting hours. Before this, I would estimate that more than 90% of the time that I needed and found a bike or dock at my five closest stations. I would say that’s dropped to 40% – meaning I get a bike or dock less than half the time I am looking for one. Again, it’s not just me, it’s hundreds of stranded Citi Bikers going to other areas to dock/undock.

What to do now? There’s two ways this can go — either Citi Bike can wait until the construction is done and then replace the station (that’s if the new entrance allows for it) or they can add more stations or concierges.

We’ve reached out to Citi Bike to see what their plans our and update this post when/if we get a reply.

I am in the East Village and have been using your service for three years. The recent removal of 14/B has impacted the area significantly to where it’s becoming inconvenient to use the program during several important times in the day/night. The valets at 13/B and 7/A aren’t enough to deal with the capacity we lost at 14/B. I was wondering what the plans are to deal with the problem? Are there plans on adding more stations to deal with this until the 14/B station comes back?

[UPDATE 09/12] Never received a response from Citi Bike, but noticed today that there’s a new Citi Bike station planned for East 12th St. and Avenue B!

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