City Hall: Police Wanted Citi Bike and Revel Scooters Shut Down During Curfew

Photo: Dave Colon
Photo: Dave Colon

The NYPD popped the tires on Citi Bike and Revel scooters.

City Hall said it was the Police Department that called for the decision to shut down the bike-share and electric scooter companies for the entirety of the curfew, with cops citing “security concerns” — a policy decision that deprives both essential workers of safe transport to their jobs and deprives protesters of a way to exercise their right to stand up to police brutality, advocates and union leaders say.

“It’s a bad policy choice from the part of the city — it’s a concern closing the system, which lots of essential workers use to mitigate taking the train, but also to get to a train,” said Nick Bedell, the New York representative for TWU Local 100, which represents Citi Bike workers. “People have the right to peacefully protest.”

On Monday evening, Gov. Cuomo imposed an 11 p.m p.m. to to 5 a.m. curfew after several days of protests and rallies throughout the city, in response to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. And just 30 minutes before it was set to take effect, Citi Bike announced that its bikes would not be available to users — including to the thousands of first-responders, transit, and healthcare workers who had signed up for a free pass. Revel, which also expanded its footprint during the coronavirus crisis to help health workers, also announced that its scooters would not be available.

The shutdown and mere 30-minute notice is a slap in the face to those who rely on the service to get to work, and to the protestors using the bikes to join peaceful rallies and marches all over the city as many are still shying away from the subways.

“Yesterday I was thinking abt the critical role I’ve seen citibike play in helping protestors move around, and wondered when the fact that it’s a private company would betray that. Well …” said advocate Nicole Murray on Twitter, linking to the Citi Bike announcement.

Both those joining the protests and journalists documenting them were frustrated by the shut down.

“It’s ridiculous,” said a rider, who gave the name John. “I’m using it to ride alongside the protest and film everything in case things go wrong, and as you know, they’ve gone wrong.”

Citi Bike said on Monday night that it had hoped to continue providing service despite the curfew, and was “discussing options” with the city.

But by Tuesday morning, Mayor de Blasio announced an extension of the curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Sunday, and City Hall later confirmed that no changes would be made to the policy due to the NYPD’s concerns about “the way the bikes were being used.”

“Revel and Citi Bike will not be operational during the curfew,” said City Hall spokesman Mitch Schwartz.

City Hall declined to elaborate the NYPD’s exact concerns about the use of Citi Bikes, and the NYPD did not respond to a request for comment. In order to rent a Revel scooter, one must be a member and agree to certain liabilities if the device is damaged. Citi Bike’s have a similar requirement, though day passes are available to non-members — backed by the user’s credit card in case a bike is not returned or returned damaged.

Citi Bike said Tuesday evening that it disagrees with the decision.

“We disagree with this decision and believe it is important for the system to remain open and provide a reliable transportation option. We know how disruptive this is to everyone who relies on Citi Bike to get home — especially essential workers,” the bike-share company wrote on Twitter.

Former DOT official Jon Orcutt, who is now with Bike New York, slammed Mayor de Blasio’s decision, along with local pols.

And one Citi Bike re-balancer also blasted the policy decision, saying he feels safe working throughout the curfew, and would rather the service keep running to help get people where they ended to go, whether that’s to a hospital or protest.

“It leaves essential workers stranded. I imagine protesters being pissed off,” said Anthony Farrar. “I don’t see where safety concerns come in, I haven’t seen anything. I am very concerned about anyone’s rights being infringed upon. We stand with people on the ground, if they want to use Citi Bike go ahead. It’s a big disruption.”

It’s the second time this week that TWU Local 100 has been in the news with its opposition to city policy. On Friday, the union defended an MTA bus driver who refused to drive anti-police protesters away from their rally at the Barclays Center after cops commandeered the Flatbush Avenue bus and started loading it with people who had been arrested.

But as of 5:40 p.m on Tuesday — still more than two hours before the 8 p.m curfew, large swaths of the Citi Bike network appeared already inactive. Citi Bike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Transportation Alternatives also blasted the decision for favoring those in cars, and punishing people on two wheels.