Mayor Refuses To Explain Citi Bike Shutdown As Bike-Share Curfew Now Starts at 6 P.M.

Photo: Dave Colon
Photo: Dave Colon

No one will tell New Yorkers why they can’t ride a Citi Bike at night this week.

On Wednesday, Streetsblog asked Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea to explain why the police department had asked Citi Bike to stop renting out bikes, even to essential workers, on the first night of the curfew (taxis such as Uber and Lyft were also banned):

STREETSBLOG: Regarding the Citi Bike shutdown, you said that you are deferring to the police when it comes to the decision that was made around that, but the police department refused to give us any explanation why they want to do it. Can you explain a single instance when the bikes have been key to looting?

DE BLASIO: If I thought the Citi Bike [ban] was a bad idea, it wouldn’t have happened. If I thought the idea of the for-hire-vehicles was a bad idea it wouldn’t have happened. If I thought what happened on the Manhattan Bridge last night was a bad idea, it wouldn’t have happened. We are talking all the time and we are in unity. So, to me, the Citi Bike idea was a very good one. Now, Commissioner Shea, I have kept it very general, and I know we’re dealing with security issues and strategic issues so I have kept it general on purpose. But if you want to say anything on the Citi Bike situation, this is where I will defer on how to speak about a strategic matter, I defer to you to explain what you feel comfortable explaining.

SHEA: Nah, I think you covered everything, Mr. Mayor.

That answer, which came after a long monologue on unrelated issues, follows an explanation from a mayoral spokesperson, who told Streetsblog on Tuesday that the mayor deferred to his police.

“PD expressed some security concerns about the way the bikes were being used, and we’re committed to giving them the tools they need to keep people safe in what’s obviously a really tricky time,” said the spokesperson when asked about the reasoning behind the Citi Bike curfew that was established on Monday afternoon.

No one, though, will talk about what those security concerns are, and why they’re so pressing that bike share — which has been critical for essential workers — has to be shut down for 11 straight hours from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The slow shrinkage of the Citi Bike service hours flies in the face of a transportation option that was deemed essential during the pandemic — so essential that the mayor said Citi Bike docks would be installed in front of any hospital that asked for one. A Citi Bike spokesperson told Streetsblog that the company now has 18,000 members enrolled in its Critical Workforce Membership program, and the company also said that 5,500 essential workers joined up since it began offering free memberships in March.

The mayor and the police commissioner both dodged the question of what threat Citi Bike poses at their press conference Wednesday morning. On Tuesday night on 1010WINS, the mayor said that he’d seen looters using for-hire-vehicles like Uber and Lyft “as part of looting,” but did not say how that was happening, leaving the public to wonder if looters are smashing store windows, grabbing luxury items and then running to the corner to wait for a car to pick them up. Or in the case of Citi Bike, riding away from a Gucci store with luxury goods under an arm or in the bike’s handy front basket.

A New York Times story on Monday night’s looting did not mention the use of Citi Bikes, while a New York Post story on an eyewitness account of two days of looting only suggested that Citi Bike riders have been warning looters how far police are from active thefts. On Monday, CNN ran footage of a looter throwing a bike through a window that was already broken, and on Tuesday, Chief Terence Monahan told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that looters were specifically using Citi Bikes and Revel scooters. But Monahan didn’t mention that looters are using cars to transport stolen goods, as the Post’s witness told the newspaper.

The Department of Transportation would not share any conversations that it had with the NYPD about the shutdown order, and the NYPD media office’s response to a Streetsblog request for more information was simply the text of the curfew order.

So it remains a state secret as to what it is about bike share and looting that requires the end of what City Council Member Carlina Rivera called a form of public transportation.