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Is the Arrival of Citi Bike Synonymous with Gentrification? I say, 'No Way!'

Joanna Lee Jacob By Joanna Lee Jacob, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation Program Coordinator, Bike Share Initiative I love Brooklyn.
Joanna on a Bike
Joanna Lee Jacob

By Joanna Lee Jacob, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation Program Coordinator, Bike Share Initiative

I love Brooklyn. I live here, I work here—honestly, I rarely leave the borough!

One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike to and from work everyday. It helps wake me up in the morning and relaxes me on the way home, plus I'm not confined to the MTA's delays and limited destinations—with my bike I have easy access to parts of Brooklyn that are tough to access (I'm looking at you Red Hook!).

For the sake of argument, let's agree that one of the hallmarks of a successful and well functioning public transportation system is that it's available to everyone. Bike share is a non-traditional public transit option that in many cities is privately owned and operated, yet is publicly available. Bike share systems nationwide often get a bad rap as a gentrifying force with exclusive, middle class, and often white ridership. This sentiment is repeated in relation to Citi Bike, and not without factual backing—currently their membership is overwhelmingly white and middle class.

This is why Citi Bike has recently expanded bike share in Brooklyn. Now even more bicycles will be available to a more diverse population: from Bed Stuy to Long Island City, more than 90 new stations will be added by the end of this month. Twenty-six of these will be added to the existing 10 in Bed Stuy, connecting Lewis Ave to Bedford Ave like never before.

Earlier this year, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, where I work, received a grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership. In collaboration with Citi Bike, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Health we are working to promote Citi Bike with groups who don't traditionally use bike share—specifically, people of color and low-income populations.

As a public health advocate and general transportation nerd, I see Citi Bike's arrival in Bed Stuy as a unique opportunity to both increase access to physical activity while also helping to solve Bed Stuy's inadequate access to public transit.

Let's be clear: rates of chronic disease in Bed Stuy and Crown Heights are alarming, and low-income communities of color are disproportionately affected. Our neighborhoods' combined obesity rate hovers around 30% and the incidence of high blood pressure is over 36%. A lifestyle that incorporates physical activity helps reduce these illnesses. When it comes to subway options, Bed Stuy is also hurting: we have the A/C to the south, the J/Z to the north, and the G to the west. Within these distant subway boarders we are a community nearly 154,000 strong, a community deserving of a more flexible and convenient transit option.

Joanna with interns in the Office of City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr.
Interns in the Office of City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr.

Bike share is a novel solution that addresses both of these daunting concerns. Bed Stuy Restoration is going into the communities and neighborhood of Bed Stuy to get residents excited about our new blue bikes, while addressing potential barriers such as safety concerns and cost. In collaboration with Bike New York, we will hold Street Skills classes; we are also offering free weekly Citi Bike rides in Brooklyn and beyond—last week we went across the Williamsburg Bridge!

Hurry and take advantage of the $25 discount Citi Bike is currently offering off its standard $149 yearly rate; it only lasts until the end of August, so act now! With that discount, Citi Bike membership is just 34¢ per day, what else can you get for that price these days?!

At Restoration, we're also actively promoting Citi Bike's ongoing discounted $60 annual memberships for New York City Housing Authority residents and members of select Community Development Credit Unions (this includes Brooklyn Cooperative on Dekalb Ave!) along with providing free 24-hour passes to anyone who wants to try out the system before investing in a membership.

groupshot healthfirst fair

We're also partnering with Brooklyn Federal Cooperative Credit Union to embed information into Restoration's financial and social services programming about the physical and financial benefits of incorporating bike share in one's daily life. Finally, we've hired ambassadors from the neighborhood, so look for them at upcoming events near you to learn more about the benefits of Citi Bike in Bed Stuy!

Comments? Questions? Or do you want a 24-hour free pass to try out Citi Bike for yourself? Email me at! There's only one way Bed Stuy can make Citi Bike its own, and that's by using it!