New York Tries to Start a Bike Share Rivalry with Boston

Sorry, New York. We're not engaging.


You have to admit, it’s clever getting kvetching New Yorkers to rally around their new bikeshare program, which rolled out this week to much fanfare, by billing it as a competition with Boston. Unfortunately for Mayor Bloomberg, Boston’s response to the challenge seems to be: “Sorry, New York, find another opiate for your bike hating whiners. We’re not engaging.”

New York’s CitiBikes made their debut Monday morning, and the roll-out has been largely successful—more successful, according to Mayor Bloomberg, than Boston’s own Hubway system.

The New York Times‘s Matt Flegenheimer notes that the Mayor’s office is using some fuzzy numbers there. “Yes, it could be pointed out that New York is at least 12 times larger than Boston,” he writes, before quoting Dot Joyce, Mayor Menino’s spokeswoman, who says New York “can use fuzzy math if they’d like.”

Like Joyce, Hubway itself took a decidedly zen attitude:

That’s right. A successful bikeshare in one city brings recognition to the concept in other places, too. Citibike’s high enrollment rate is a rising tide that lifts all bikes (which are buoyant for the purposes of this metaphor. Work with me here.)

But the New York Mayor’s office doesn’t care that Boston isn’t down for a fight. They’re still pushing the inter-city rivalry thing. The Times quotes Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, saying, “The New York City-Boston relationship is all about competition…whether it’s the Giants beating the Pats, the Yankees winning more World Series rings than the Red Sox, the Knicks knocking out the Celtics — or our bike share program being the biggest and best.” Oh sure, New York, you’ve got a big flashy bike share system, but what are you compensating for, eh?

Just kidding. We’re not engaging in this. If we were, we could point out that Wood forgot to mention one sport, hockey, where most recently the Bruins bounced the Rangers from the playoffs, but no! We’re better than that!

One place where we’ll even concede total defeat: the competition over who has the most hilariously dramatic bike share opponents. That’s New York in a walk. The Mayor might consider CitiBike to be a greater success than Hubway, but his city’s tabloids seem to be on Team Boston (or at least Team Not New York). Here is a sampling of headlines from the New York Post in the past several days.

•   “Bx. man swipes unlocked Citi Bike, admits he didn’t pay for it.” 

•   “Well, that was fast! First Citi Bike cycle stolen

•   “Lower E. Side bicycle shop owner fears Citi Bike share program will run him out of business

•   “‘Share’ of woe for new bikes

•   And our personal favorite, “‘CitiBike made me late to work,'” in which a Post reporter found two people to complain that the system delayed them getting to their jobs on time. Imagine if a public transit system glitch forcing two people to be late to work were considered news in any other context. The Red Line would be front page material three days a week! (Eight days a week? The paper would get repetitive is what we’re saying)

But it’s not that we’re saying the New York Post is being levelheaded as it impartially judges the success of its bikeshare program. We’re just saying that when Bloomberg tries to make this a competition with Boston, he’s probably more focused on rallying his own city than riling up ours.