Citi Bike…How Green Is It?


Citi Bike

Citi Bike Kiosk outside Grand Central Terminal, on Park Avenue

Citi Bike NYC, New York City’s bike sharing program, was launched to much fanfare (including suprisingly positive customer service) and some controversy, on May 27, 2013.

The largest bike sharing program in the US, Citi Bike is a for-profit system, and runs without subsidies from the city.  Alta Bicycle Share developed and operates the system and Citigroup spent more than $40 million to be the title sponsor for 6 years.

Citi Bike currently has 330 stations in Manhattan south of 59th Street (hey, what are we Upper West Siders, chopped liver??) and in Brooklyn north of Atlantic Avenue and west of Nostrand Avenue. The system runs with 6,000 bikes.  Over 62,000 riders have taken out annual subscriptions (cost:  $95).   Citi Bike was designed with the commuter (home-to-work/school; subway-to-work, etc) and social good (improved public health, economic growth and, of most interest to GSB, reduced greenhouse gas emissions) in mind.

On that “reduced greenhouse gas emissions” point, it’s too early to know exactly what the impacts will be in New York:  Surveys will need to be conducted to determine how many people are switching from driving to the bikes vs. bus vs. subway, for example.  However, since 30 US cities have launched bike share programs the past few years, not to mention Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm and others, we can look elsewhere to make an educated guess.

Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare did a survey of its users in 2011 which showed:

  • 41% of users reported reducing their number of car trips
  • Those users said they drove an average of 523 miles per year less, which translates into avoiding releasing 487.7 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere per bike share user
  • Annually that translates into 1,632 tons of atmospheric CO2 avoided

Washington opened with about 1,000 bikes, compared to the 6,000 in New York.  Taking into account the fact New Yorkers drive less per capita than their DC counterparts (better, more comprehensive mass transit in Gotham), thus making a 6:1 comparison of NYC:DC bikes a bit aggressive, it’s probably fair to say that a 4.5:1 ratio is conservative.  This would mean the Citi Bike program would lead to the avoidance of 7,300+ tons of CO2 emissions.  This translates to taking over 1,500 cars off the road for a year.

And, this is just the beginning:  The program will grow (above 59th St??) and there will be a myriad of positive feedback effects.  From a green perspective, the likelihood is that Bike Sharers will be more likely to get into long distance, recreational/training cycling, thus further reducing car miles traveled.

GSB will follow up on Citi Bike to see if/when survey data becomes available so we can replace my back-of-napkin calculation above with hard data.  For now, if any readers are Citi Bikers, I’d love to hear from you–how do you like it?  How did you get to work beforehand?  And, most importantly, are you wearing a helmet?



GreenSportsBlog: Weekend Parting Shots

Normally I post once a week, on Mondays.  This week, however, was a busy one in the GreenSports World.  So, here for your reading pleasure, are some GreenSports news and notes as you head off to your weekend:


Jason Garrett

Jason Garrett, Head Coach, Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett gave his welcoming speech to the team to open training camp a week or so ago. And, without knowing it, he offered up a strong green message (per’s “The MMQB” football site):

I’m about to ban the Styrofoam deals, guys. [Dallas allows players to go through the team-meal line with a Styrofoam container and get food to go.] … This is an incredible opportunity you guys have. It’s one of the great experiences of your life to be a teammate with somebody in the National Football League. The camaraderie you develop at a team meal is like nothing else. When people retire from the game, you know what they say? ‘I miss the locker room. I miss the camaraderie at the meals.’ So lose the Styrofoam thing, get a tray, sit down next to one of your teammates, and let’s build a football team. Let’s build a football team. It’s really important stuff. You’re gonna thank me for it later. Trust me. You’re gonna thank me for it later.

How cool would it have been if he added a recycling, green message to the team building theme?  I’m going to write Coach Garrett and see if he can add that to next year’s speech.  Assuming he doesn’t get fired, of course.



Many of you commented on my post of two weeks ago on the SOCCKET, the soccer ball, developed by 2 Class of 2010 Harvard students, that generates and stores electricity when kicked.  Boot the SOCCKET around for 30 minutes and you generate 3 hours of light (the SOCCKET plugs in to lamps!).  Former President Bill Clinton gave the students a huge boost when he invited one to speak at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010.  This helped SOCCKET move from class project to the lead product in a new company, Uncharted Play.  UP is devoted to “fostering well-being by inspiring people to lead playful lives”.  Clinton is not the only President to have, pardon this pun, seen the light with SOCCKET.  Here’s President Obama generating some energy with the SOCCKET on his recent trip to Africa:

Obama Soccket




I gave the Climate Reality Project slide show (i.e. the “An Inconvenient Truth” presentation) today to a terrific group of 30 high school kids at The Horticultural Society of New York, the non-profit dedicated to sustaining “the vital connection between people and plants”.  The talk was given as part of the Greening Western Queens “Green Infrastructure Program”, a partnership between The Hort and Global Kids, another fantastic non-profit whose mission is to develop youth leaders, mainly from underserved communities, “for the global stage through dynamic global education and leadership development programs.”

greening western queens

These high school juniors certainly seem poised to lead the fight against Climate Change.  Among other things, they’ve started a petition drive to gain funding for green roofs on top of public schools in NYC (I signed!).  And they embraced the idea that the enormous challenges climate change poses provides their generation with huge opportunities as well.

The reason I’m including today’s presentation in the GreenSportsBlog is that the power of the Green/Sports intersection was clear.

  1. The part of the slideshow that elicited the most enthusiasm was the “Climate On Steroids” section.  It makes the analogy between steroids in baseball (as the fuel for dramatic jumps in home runs), and greenhouse gas emissions (as the prime cause of Climate Change).  Even the kids who aren’t into baseball understood that, once MLB instituted real drug testing, home runs reverted to pre-steroid era levels.  And they also understood that, sadly, we haven’t started to take the “Climate Steroids” out of the atmosphere.
  2. It was easy to see that the addition of sports into the presentation made it kind of “fun”.  Fun is not a word one associates with Climate Change, but the kids’ ears perked up and re-focused their attention when we talked Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds.

Near the end of the presentation, I told the kids about the GreenSportsBlog and my “Open Letter To LeBron James” post.  Their faces lit up (I wish we could’ve harvested that psychic, facial energy!).  Now I know they’re way more into LeBron then Climate Change but, hopefully, they’ll read the post, friend LeBron on Facebook and bug him to say “Climate Change is real, it’s human caused, and we need to take meaningful action to reverse it”.  In fact, maybe we can start a petition.

Have a great weekend!


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