bicycles

Citi Bike Races Into Upper Manhattan to Help Health Workers

A Citi Bike station at Foley Square in Manhattan.
A Citi Bike station at Foley Square in Manhattan. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

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The coronavirus crisis has put Citi Bike’s expansion into Upper Manhattan in the fast lane.

The bike-sharing service will open a new docking station Tuesday outside of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, offering health care workers at the Washington Heights medical complex another transportation option.

“Will there be a citibike dock at NYP Columbia Hospital???” one woman tweeted at the company on April 4. “I’d love to ride up there from [the Upper West Side] to go to work as a healthcare professional :).”

The Citi BikeNYC account responded the next day saying they’d keep her updated.

The coronavirus-driven opening of the new station will move Citi Bike’s expansion northward from 130th Street in Harlem, and accelerate its arrival into Washington Heights, which had been planned for later this spring into summer.

The Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Washington Heights
The Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Washington Heights Photo: Adam Hoglund/Shutterstock

In the past, the service has been criticized for neglecting low-income neighborhoods and places where people of color live.

“This Citi Bike station at Columbia Presbyterian, requested by many among the hospital’s staff, is an important signal to them that New York City is listening to their requests for alternative transportation for essential commutes,” said Councilmember Carlina Rivera, chair of the Council’s committee on hospitals.

The new station, at 169th Street and Fort Washington Avenue, will have room for about 45 bicycles and remain in place as the bike-sharing network expands north.

“This new Citi Bike station outside Upper Manhattan’s key medical center will provide a critical transportation option for health care providers on the frontlines against COVID-19,” said Caroline Samponaro, head of micromobility and transit policy at Lyft, the operator of Citi Bike.

Hospital Stations Well Used

The bikes arrive at uptown medical centers as docking stations near other Manhattan hospitals have become some of the busiest in the nearly 900-station Citi Bike system during the pandemic.

The station at First Avenue and 68th Street — near New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center — is now the busiest station, according to Citi Bike. It previously was the 31st busiest.

“Around the time that the city initiated a quarantine, I decided to give Citi Bike a try,” said Dr. John Hagen, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “Prior to that, I was just happy to be passively commuting via the subway.”

But with subway service running on a reduced “Essential Service Plan,” and crowding in train cars an ongoing concern, essential workers have increasingly turned to cycling as a way to keep moving.

A bike station at First Avenue and 16th Street, near Mount Sinai Beth Israel, is now the eighth-busiest after previously being 38th busiest.

And one at Broadway and West 60th Street, close to Mount Sinai West, is the 10th busiest, after previously being the 18th.

The city and Lyft last month began offering free one-month Citi Bike memberships to health care workers, first responders and transit workers. Citi Bike typically charges $3 for a single ride, $12 for a day pass and $169 for an annual membership.

“We’ve seen the utility of bikes in past crises, like the aftermath of Sandy, when riding went up,” said Jon Orcutt, of the advocacy group Bike New York. “It’s fortunate we have Citi Bike this time around to help medical and other key personnel keep moving. Hopefully, this accelerates development of bikes into a built-out system.”

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