Biking Electrically (and Equitably) Through the Boroughs

With over 143,000 members in New York City, Citi Bike is a significant part of the city’s central transportation network, as it provides a sustainable way to commute around the city and across the boroughs. Despite the bike shortage of 2020, ample bike lanes have provided an incentive for people to navigate the streets as car traffic returns back to pre-pandemic levels. Citi Bike also provides pedal-assisted e-bikes, so biking is now an accessible option for more people and longer distances. With this in mind, Citi Bike electrification would promote environmental justice, public health, equity, equality, and reliability for New Yorkers.

More specifically, pedal-assisted electric bikes help New Yorkers commute longer distances, with speeds up to 18 mph. This can enable commuters to travel between boroughs and other nearby locations as well. Ebikes account for 20% of all Citi Bike bikes, and nearly 75% of rides across bridges or boroughs take place on e-bikes. In 2019, the Department of Transportation revealed 21.4 miles of protected bike lanes and lanes with medians and parked cars for separation, and last year another 30 miles of protected lanes were added. As traffic congestion increases, costing businesses and families $20 billion in wasted time and resources annually, these additional bike lanes and safety measures provide locals with the opportunity to efficiently commute across the city. E-bikes thus enable New Yorkers to travel more easily and sustainably without breaking a sweat.

Its pedal-assist technology increases the accessibility of biking to a greater number of riders as well. With residents aged 65 and older accounting for 16% of the state’s population, e-bikes are a popular method of transportation for older citizens. Similarly, e-bikes also provide a more attractive option for disabled people as well. Ebikes require little physical effort, as their rechargeable batteries help make them more convenient to ride. Additionally, e-bikes can help fight the income inequality in the city by providing lower-income workers with a reliable, flexible mode of transportation, especially for those who live in areas that lack sufficient ways to commute.

Lastly, Citi Bike e-bikes will help combat the greenhouse gasses that other modes of transportation emit. Ebikes emit 2.5 to 5g of carbon dioxide per mile, while even electric cars emit 150g per mile, much less than what vehicles that use gas or diesel emit. Thus, e-bikes could potentially provide an annual average reduction of 225 kg CO2. They are zero-emission vehicles, can be charged during off-peak hours, and their long-lasting batteries cut down on waste, all of which are factors that highlight the environmental benefits of e-bikes.

With this in mind, Citi Bike e-bikes encourage a more eco-friendly, convenient way to commute around New York. As they continue to expand, Citi Bike should consider some changes that can help promote their fleet across the city. Currently, to charge the e-bikes, the staff has to drive to each and every dock and replace the dead batteries with fully charged ones- this is the most expensive aspect of operating e-bikes. A more efficient approach would be to incorporate station electrification so that each e-bike could be charged at the dock. By doing so, more e-bikes will be available and consequently more affordable for all rides. CitiBike should also prioritize adding more stations and bikes to EJ communities and transit deserts in order to help those who need the benefits the most. However, all in all, e-bikes are providing New Yorkers a new path to travel across the city and nearby boroughs. As they expand, they will help tackle traffic delays, greenhouse gas emissions, and transportation inequality.