Citi Bike's surging ridership creating logistical challenges

Citi Bike — New York City's bike-share program, which is one of the largest in the world — is so popular that managing the system's logistics presents many challenges. One challenge is keeping the docks stocked with bikes. 

"This isn't a problem that we're seeing as like a months-long problem but certainly a point-in-time pain point," Citi Bike general manager Laura Fox told FOX 5 NY. 

Making sure the docks have enough bikes is called rebalancing: Citi Bike trucks move bikes around the city 24 hours a day. Fox attributed the recent rebalancing challenges to a massive surge in ridership.

"June was Citi Bike's best month ever," Fox said. 

The system experienced nearly 3.5 million rides in June — a 22% increase from a year ago.

"We see a lot of new commuting and trip patterns that are taking place," Fox added. "That does bring on new rebalancing challenges to make sure stations have enough bikes and docks available to riders."

FOX 5 met Joshua, a Citi Bike rider, at a station on 88th Street at 1st Avenue after the e-bike he took from a dock in the Bronx abruptly ended his ride.

"I was on the phone with the people," Joshua said, "and they said: ‘OK, now get a different one because this one’s out of service.’"

Joshua rides a pedal-assisted Citi Bike from his Bronx home to Brooklyn Bridge Park to play basketball every day of the week during the warmer months, but for the first time in his three years using the system as his primary mode of transportation, Joshua said he'd started to encounter entire Citi Bike stations without a single bicycle.

"It’s hard to even get bikes," he said. "[You have to] take another bus to go another five miles to another [station]."

In response to more total rides and more riders riding more new routes, Citi Bike hired more staff to help redistribute the system's 25,000 bicycles to the places that need them most ("definitely the Bronx," Joshua said) and Fox expected Citi Bike to soon solve this most recent empty station problem until some future system expansion or further spike in ridership creates a new rebalancing challenge.