New York hugely popular bikeshare program enjoys over 100,000annual members, but after operating less than a year it is seeking a $14 millioninvestment to improve and expand.A long, freezing winter may have put the brakes on all but the most fanatical ofcyclists, but with the arrival of spring the bikes' royal blue livery will once againbecome omnipresent.Since their launch in May 2013, Citi Bikes have traveled 11.26 million kilometers (7
million miles).In good weather, they make an average of 36,000 trips a day although that figuredropped to 8,000 during an icy February.Bad omens have not come true: there have been few injuries and no deaths as thebikes jostle for space with pedestrians, taxis, cars, trucks and delivery men in the citythat never sleeps.But while the scheme will celebrate its first anniversary next month, officials admitthey are on the hunt for new investors -- and millions of dollars."Our parent company, Alta Bicycle Share, is seeking investment that will allow us,Citi Bike, to expand to 10,000 bikes," NYC Bike Share spokeswoman Dani Simons toldAFP."That would cost about $14 million," she said. ABS "is also speaking to investorsabout a variety of possible investment opportunities."- No New York bailoutIn New York, unlike most cities, the network was set up on the grounds that it wouldcost the taxpayer nothing.
The first sponsor, Citigroup, paid $41 million over five years to have its logo on6,000 bikes and 332 stations in southern Manhattan and various parts of Brooklyn.That was supposed to be a first step before the scheme was widened to 10,000 bikesand nearly 600 stations in a larger area.But maintenance turned out to be more expensive than anticipated.Technological problems sometimes shut down bike stations or prevented ridersfrom paying by bank card.What's more, the director general of Citi Bike, Justin Ginsburgh, resigned recently.And in January, the Canadian company Bixi, which makes the equipment andtechnology, went bankrupt.If annual membership, at $95, exceeded expectations, then the rates of $35 a weekand $9.95 a day, mainly targeting tourists, have been disappointing."It was our first year, we didn't have a lot of time to deal with marketing," saidSimons. "We'll be doing more this year."While waiting for more funding, expansion projects risk remaining on ice. No datefor any such plans has been set, she acknowledged.Citi Bike has discussed raising rates but so far no decision has been made.
Officials confirm they have not asked New York for money."At this point, city budget money is not on the table," New York Mayor Bill de Blasiosaid. "We will collaborate with them to help them find ways to be more efficient andmore effective."Transport Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has been frank."We all know Citi Bike has been tremendously popular with New Yorkers. But therehave been significant financial and operational issues," she said in a statement.She listed those issues as a need for more effective redistribution of bikes andtechnology problems resulting in malfunctioning stations and failed credit cardtransactions."We expect the system's operator, NYC Bike Share, to resolve these issues so thesystem can perform effectively and ultimately expand," she said."Everything is on the table for Citi Bike, from improving operations to newsponsorships, to additional financing.