5 Highlights From Last Night’s Bike-Share vs. Parking Meeting

A dense network of stations is what makes bike-share work so well in these Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Last night’s Brooklyn Community Board 6 bike-share forum lacked the fireworks of previous meetings — no physical threats this time. While the tone was civil, the demands from the anti-bike-share crowd weren’t exactly reasonable.

So far, Citi Bike has proven incredibly popular in CB 6, with some stations getting as much as seven rides per dock each day. That’s a lot more activity than the average free car parking spot ever sees.

Opponents said they would be fine with the bike-share stations if they didn’t occupy curb space that previously served as free car storage. They suggested the docks be moved onto sidewalks and that the station density be cut in half. But sidewalks in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens don’t have room for bike-share stations, and reducing station density would ruin the usefulness of the bike-share system. Bike-share only works well when you don’t have to walk more than a couple of minutes to reach a station.

With the room at capacity, Council Member Brad Lander live streamed the meeting for people stuck outside. The entire one-hour, 45-minute video (which amazingly does not capture the entire meeting) is available on Lander’s Facebook page. Here are the highlights:

The Cobble Hill Citi Biker who called opponents on their bluff (1:28)

“As a taxpayer who’s been subsidizing free parking for people who have cars, I myself don’t have one, I never understood how angry people felt when they felt like something has been taken away from them that belongs to them,” Cobble Hill resident Lily Geller said. “Until I became a member of the Citi Bikes program, and the thought of losing the dock that’s on my street terrifies me. I would be so upset if I don’t have access to Citi Bikes anymore.”

Geller went on to defend the density of the stations. “The density is what makes it work,” she said. “The problem comes in when you don’t have a place where you can park a bike that you’ve taken out, or where you’re not within a place where there’s a bike within four, five or ten blocks from you.” Listen to the whole thing. She hits the nail on the head.

The Park Slope mom who gave up her family’s car (49:00)

Park Slope resident Gail Hines said that getting rid of her family’s car was “the most liberating thing I ever did,” and she was met with applause. “I defy you to find somewhere — in the city charter, in the state constitution, in the constitution of the United States — that guarantees you a free parking space. And I don’t think there’s an 11th Commandment ‘Thou shalt have free parking.'”

That Upper West Sider who drives to visit his friends in Brooklyn (13:00)

Yes, this happened. “I usually come out in my Jeep,” said Upper West Side resident Bill Porter. “You can’t replace the automobile with the bicycle,” he said. “The real problem is the lack of affordable parking. If you get indoor parking that can be afforded for $100 or a couple hundred dollars a month. If you try to put your car in a garage out here, it’s incredibly pricy. It’s a real high-profit industry. So what you need to do is you need to pass legislation forcing developers to provide affordable parking.”

Of course, “affordable parking” comes at the expense of affordable housing.

Carroll Gardens vs. Carroll Gardens (1:02)

Dennis Sciria, who started an online petition called “Say No to Citi Bike,” told the audience that he wasn’t entirely opposed to the program, but that his family needed his car — and a spot to park it in. “I have two young children. I need a car. I need to get around. I need to pick them up and go shopping,” said Sciria, who said he walks to work in Brooklyn Heights from his home in Carroll Gardens.

Immediately after Sciria, 32-year Carroll Gardens resident Dan Ross stood up to defend the program. “Not all of the longtime residents of Carroll Gardens are opposed to Citi Bike,” Ross said. “I’ve been parking on the street in Carroll Gardens for 30 years. It was hard 30 years ago, it was hard before Citi Bike, it’s still hard. Personally, I don’t think [Citi Bike]’s made much of a difference.”

The old timer thrilled at Citi Bike’s arrival (1:24)

While many of the bike-share opponents were self-described “old timers” whose families have lived in the area for decades, Lori Chaumont, who moved to Cobble Hill in the mid-1960s, told the room she was thrilled that Citi Bike had finally come to the neighborhood. Chaumont, who nows lives in Park Slope, said she had hoped it would come in time for her to bike to work in Crown Heights. “I’m now retired, so I can’t ride it to Crown Heights, but I have grandchildren in Cobble Hill, so I go back and forth between Park Slope and Cobble Hill on the bike very often,” she said.