Take a deep breath. Hold it. Good, now exhale.
Your launch is days away, and it’s going to be pretty huge. You’ll be the largest bike share program in North America. We hear the haranguing, and we see the sneering. But what you’re experiencing is normal and expected from passionate New Yorkers. It hurts a bit, sure–but it should only hurt for a second. You’re changing something and change feels weird to a lot of people. Before you know it, New Yorkers will grumble about you no more than they grumble about the subway. (Probably even less since, so far, you don’t have a rat problem.) And remember, polls show that 70% of New Yorkers are already in favor of you.
Once the dust settles, Citi Bike will be exalted for facilitating connections and making life easier–and better. Brooklyners will use you to breeze to the Brooklyn Flea Market on Saturdays. Manhattanites will find their access to lunchbreak eateries suddenly and exponentially expanded. And, as you grow, the other boroughs will demand just as much from you.
New Yorkers and visitors alike will quickly understand how bike share enhances accessibility and improves the city.
Sure, there will still be grumblers–those perennial NIMBYs that can’t understand why anything ever changes… ever. But the vast majority will champion the system. They will adopt you their own and love you for being there. That is, if you do this the right way.
What is the “right way,” you ask? We have some ideas and we’ve laid them out for you below.
Be Flexible & Adapt
In any environment, long-term survival depends on adaptation. A bike share program in an urban environment is no different. You must be willing to adapt–to change decisions you’ve spent hours grappling over–in order to flourish. This is the first part of an extended learning experience to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Removing docks on Bank Street was a good move. It shows that you listen and that you care about what residents think. And, while the media may take it as a small failure and poor planning, in reality it is all part of the planning and implementation process.
Almost just as important as flexibility, however, is making your reasoning transparent by maintaing a line of communication. Mysteriously removing the Bank Street docks in the middle of the night and replacing it with a rock without explanation leaves a lot of people scratching their heads and many question unanswered. (For one, what is this giant rock doing here?)
Be Transparent & Communicate
Being transparent and establishing a consistent line of communication between yourselves and the public will be integral to the success of Citi Bike.
At its launch, Citi Bike will be the biggest program in North America, surpassing Montreal by almost 1,000 bikes. It’s no shock that all that hardware hitting the streets has concerned some residents. But it is important that those concerns don’t fall on deaf ears.
We know that residents were given ample opportunities to make their opinions heard, however, disregarding new public concern over station siting will only result in more upset residents, more lawsuits, and more vandalism.
It is also important to be clear and public with your decision-making process. If you remove a station, explain your reasoning (don’t just put a rock in its place).
Keep Garnering Public Support
As seen with the thousands of individuals who have already signed up for memberships, a lot of New Yorkers are excited about the program. In order to make the most out of that excitement, you must make them proud of the program. This will depend on your ability to address important concerns from the public, how you handle operational issues, your ability to be flexible, and how well you communicate.
Once residents are proud of the system–not just excited about it–you’ll notice that the grumblers will become quieter and the desire for more stations and more bikes will become louder. That is, if you do this the right way.
Being hermetic will only harm your relationship with those who currently support the program. Instead, make it easy for people to channel their excitement into full-fledged support for the program; be flexible, be transparent, and communicate.
Best of luck,Winnie Fong, Matt Christensen, & Justin Bilow BikeShare.com