You looking for an argument? Bring it on.
Bicycles? New Yorkers love them, and they hate them.
Now they are about to get 6,000 more of them, when the city launches its own bike-sharing program Monday, rolling out the same sort of lumbering machines that have made Washington the bike-sharing capital of the country.
But compared with Capital Bikeshare, Citi Bike isn’t exactly gliding into hearts and minds, and that tells you plenty about the temperament — and the topography — of the two cities.
In the District, the scheme that lets people rent bikes for short hops caused scant hand-wringing, most of it over the lack of bike helmets. In New York, it’s causing a big fuss.
Like most New York controversies, it is louder than it is large. Average New Yorkers take things in stride. The rest of them complain. And then they file lawsuits.
“It’s typical New York. They don’t want change,” says Anthony Amato, 39, while walking his Boston terrier, Pandora, down West 77th Street. “And they don’t want it in front of their building.”
Most of the ruckus has been about this “it.” When were asked about the city’s relatively new web of bike lanes, two out of three New Yorkers said they liked them, far more than when Mayor Michael Bloomberg began installing them. About a third of the people surveyed recently by the New York Times said they might try the bike-sharing program.
Then “it” began to appear: long rows of gray docking stations for the bikes, sometimes 50 to 60 of them in a single block in midtown Manhattan. Worse than that, some of the almost 330 stations were installed on narrow neighborhood streets in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
It’s hard to find streets that narrow amid the handiwork of Pierre L’Enfant’s Washington. Wide downtown sidewalks and wide-enough neighborhood sidewalks leave ample space for pedestrians and bike stations to coexist in the District
Not necessarily so on Bank Street in the West Village. It’s about as wide as an alley, and it’s where the first big legal kvetch came.
A station and a stone slab to protect it were installed in front of 99 Bank Street, where studio condos go for upward of $500,000 and a one-bedroom sold for $815,000 last year. The lawsuit calls the docking station “street furniture” and a “vending machine” that’s bound to hurt property values.
What’s more, the suit says, it will block deliveries, pose a danger to children and the elderly, and generally annoy people on the 11-foot-wide street. Already, it’s collecting garbage and poop from dogs and birds, the suit says.
The plaintiffs demand $3 million for the damage allegedly caused by “it.”
“They’re popping up all over,” says Louis Changchien, 37, while chaining his bike to a signpost outside the Second Stage Uptown theater on the Upper West Side, where he’s acting in “The Tutors.” “Some of them are on narrow streets where there are precious few parking spaces.”