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NYC bike-share use soars as real spring weather arrives

Riders pedal on Citi Bikes in Manhattan
Riders pedal on Citi Bikes in ManhattanPhoto by John Moore/Getty Images

This may not come as a total surprise to anyone who has experienced the seemingly sudden onrush of spring in New York City during the past week, but Citi Bike, the city’s bicycle sharing program, saw a huge increase last weekend and in the pleasant days leading up to it.

Statistics downloaded from the bike-share website today revealed that from Wed. April 9 through Sunday April 13, users of the bike-share system in Manhattan and Brooklyn took almost 139,000 trips, with last weekend’s day-pass purchases surging to an average of over 2,500 a day.

“This is fun. I enjoy seeing the park on this bike, even though it is much heavier than the one I have at home,” a rider from Belgium who declined to give her name said yesterday in sun-splashed Central Park.

The jump in activity is quite a change from just a few weeks ago. On February 13, as a major snowstorm enveloped the city, exactly seven 24-hour day passes were sold and fewer than 1,000 trips taken on the sturdy bright blue bicycles.

Observers might wonder whether polar bears masquerading as cyclists took Citi Bikes out of their docking stations that February day; bike-share management instituted a “soft shutdown,” discouraged potential riders and “field operations were suspended due to hazardous road conditions,” according to its monthly report.

Indeed, despite one of the coldest and snowiest winters in New Yorkers’ memory, the bike-share annual-membership sales surpassed 100,000 members during March and riders pedaled beyond the 7-million mile mark. Citi Bike began operations late in May a year ago.

Currently a 24-hour access pass costs $9.95. A seven-day access pass goes for $25. These short-term passes can only be purchased at the kiosks attached to one of the more than 300 active stations. An annual pass, which must be purchased online, costs $95 plus tax.

There have been rumors of a price increase as the underlying companies involved experience financial woes. The parent company than runs Citi Bike, Alta Bike Share of Portland, Ore., is trying to raise additional funds. The Canadian firm Bixi, which manufactures the bikes, filed for bankruptcy protection in January.

The bike-share rental resurgence could be short-lived; lower than average temperatures were forecast for the rest of the week.