Bike Share Hits A Newhallville Speed Bump

Thomas Breen PhotoLawmakers were urged to approve a new bike share program in New Haven — as long as it includes neighborhoods away from downtown.

Which might not prove so simple, at least at first.

A public hearing Tuesday night drew enthusiastic support for the planned new project, which would eventually make at least 300 bicycles available for short-term rental at 30 stations located around the city. The Harp administration has chosen a company to run the program, which is similar to New York’s Citi Bike, and now needs Board of Alders approval to roll it out.

First stop: Tuesday’s two-plus-hour hearing at City Hall of the alders’ City Services & Environmental Policy Committee (CSEP).

While praising the overall concept, alders raised concerns that certain neighborhoods outside of downtown miss out on station placements for the first five years of the bike share. They continued the hearing for another month rather than taking a vote.

After listening to a presentation on how the bike share program will represent an affordable, accessible, and healthful addition to New Haven’s current public transit system, members of the committee interrogated city transit chief Doug Hausladen, deputy transit director Michael Pinto, and New Haven Smart Mobility (NHSM) managing partner Carols Pujol about language in the proposed contract.

The top concern: placement of bike stations.

“I see that Newhallville is not on the launch for this bike share,” Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn told Hausladen. “I would like for this to be launched in our area. I think it’s very important that this project be launched in Newhallville. If you did not choose Newhallville, I would like to know why.”

“I can easily answer that,” Hausladen responded. “Number one, we haven’t chosen a single neighborhood yet for bike stations. This [SeeClickFix map] is where residents of New Haven at the meetings we’ve been able to attend have stood up and said, ‘I want a station here.’ I think you’re aware of how many times I’ve been trying to come to the Newhallville management team meetings and have been called the day of and told not to come.”

Hausladen added that the city hasn’t signed the contract yet. He said he’s committed to eventually covering the whole city with the program.

“We’re launching with 30 stations and 300 bikes, because that is what we can afford with our contracting, and we need to be able to grow fast. I agree that we need to get to places like Newhallville, which is well serviced by the Farmington Canal trail, which has great job access with proximity to the D line on Dixwell Avenue.”

“Just to let you know,” Clyburn stated, “when you do sign a contract, and when it starts, I want to have the bike share program in Newhallville.”

CSEP Committee Chair Sal DeCola of Morris Cove noted that the proposed contract states that phase one of the program will cover two to four square miles.  He cited a section of the proposed contract that states that the vendor must build the first 30 bike stations within a four-square mile area of the city.

“If this area is based on the Green, then that means that Delphine does not get a bike station. I’m going by the contract, which says two to four miles in Phase One, which can last up to five years. So for five years, Delphine doesn’t get a station.”

“That’s not correct,” Hausladen replied.

DeCola picked up a map provided by Hausladen that showed downtown and its adjacent neighborhoods overlaid with four concentric circles, each defining a radius of an additional two square miles.

“Look, the miles are the miles,” he said, thumping his hands on the table. “You made a circle and you put the miles up here. Delphine’s not in the first phase.”

“That’s not necessarily where the bike stations are going to be,” Hausladen explained. “I wanted to show what a two to four square mile radius would look like, but the implementation plan will propose where the stations actually go.”

Hausladen pulled up a document that his department had submitted to the alders before the hearing in response to questions from the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) about certain sections of the contract. Several of the answers dealt directly with the two to four square mile area limitation for the first phase of the bike share.

“Systems must have a high density of stations that are within walking distance of each other and anywhere within the system area,” reads the document, citing Hausladen’s and NHSM’s research into what makes for a successful bike share program.

“They must also have high ratios of bikes/residents and cover large areas of the city. NHSM understands this and is planning for high density of stations. While Phase 1 of New Haven Bike Share will not cover all of New Haven nor have high numbers of bikes per resident, subsequent expansions will increase the area of stations and the number of bikes.”

The problem, Alders DeCola and Clyburn argued, is not necessarily with building a bike share program with density, which they recognized is critical. Rather, it is with the constricting nature of a contract that allows the vendor to set up stations within a four square mile area and then not have to expand that area for up to five years.

Based on data that Hausladen and other bike share advocates have collected over the past few months during presentations at community management team meetings, public schools, libraries, and through a public request form on SeeClickFix, DeCola and Clyburn said they are convinced that the epicenter of that four square mile area would have to be the Green. That leaves other areas of the city in the lurch.

“All the dots on this map point towards Chapel Street as the center point for this program,” DeCola said, pointing to the map of site requests made via SeeClickFix. “We need to come back at another meeting and have definite answers on what is the center point and where the four square miles cover, or just take that out of the contract. I’m not angry with this, but I don’t like it right now. I don’t see this current contract benefiting the citizens of New Haven.”

DeCola, Clyburn, and the rest of the alders on the committee moved to extend the public hearing on the proposed bike share contract until the next CSEP meeting, which will take place on April 11 at City Hall.

The alders also insisted that the current contract’s 10-year term with NHSM be renegotiated down to five years with an option to renew based on alder review of the program.

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on March 23, 2017  3:48pm

Hard to blame Newhalville alders for wanting to be included in this program. Many citizens in this area would benefit from bike share. And I don’t think we can necessarily key in on what SeeClickFix requests are done, because this happens to benefit one particular type of New Haven resident (upper middle class, tech-savvy).

I think maybe it makes sense to choose 20ish of the stations based on popularity, and then have the last 10 done in certain neighborhoods based on those neighborhood inputs (Fair Haven, The Hill, Newhalville) because those residents aren’t going to be as heavy of users of SeeClickFix.

posted by: anonymous on March 23, 2017  4:05pm

Bike share is usually a secondary form of transportation. People come into the general area by bus, car, or train, and then they snag a bike to ride the last remaining half mile or mile to their destination.  This way, they don’t need to go to the Green and transfer buses which could take an hour instead of three minutes.

These types of programs need to start by blanketing a very small area, or they won’t work.  Nobody wants to bus/walk 10 minutes, pick up a bike, and then have to walk another 10 minutes - you need to be able to bus/walk 10 minutes, and then ride the bike to within a block of your destination. 

Keep in mind that people in Newhallville, Hill, Beaver Hills, East Rock, etc., would still be able to take a very short walk or bus ride to the nearest station and then use the system.  For example, someone living next to East Rock Park might walk 10 minutes to Nica’s, and pick up a bike there to ride over to Dixwell Avenue.  Or someone in Newhallville might take the D bus for 5 minutes to Orchard Street and then pick up a bike and ride down to St. Ray’s in 5 minutes without the need to transfer buses. 

It’s great to see the city working on this.  The cost is modest, the impact is enormous, and hundreds of other cities are doing it.  It would be silly for the Alders to throw up irrational roadblocks.

posted by: southwest on March 23, 2017  4:53pm

I hate to be the barrier of bad news now let’s be realistic…bike sharing in Newhall Ville is just asking for trouble because of the crime status..would the bike be returned or would one get mugged or assaulted if riding the bike thur the neighborhood like what happens when it’s their own bike…every neighborhood is not condousive to some programs…that’s just facts and reality..we have to start calling things as we see it wether we hurt someone feelings or not it’s called truth and reality!! Just saying !!

posted by: jim1 on March 23, 2017  5:07pm

To use Bikeshare in NYC, you have to pay a fee to Citibank

Any good thing on offer is usually denied to the ghetto. It would be nice for the city’s poorest to have more access to bike transport either for work or play especially as the bike trail runs down Dixwell Ave to Skiff St. (actually from Yale campus 15 miles or so to Cheshire and will eventually lead to Mass.)
Many Dixwell/Newhalville people cant afford any transport. at all so I hope bikes fees are very low.

posted by: LorcaNotOrca on March 23, 2017  10:22pm

@southwest: Someone had to say it.
I’d absolutely love for this to go to Newhallville because it would be incredibly valuable there. But I’m sorry, my first thought when I read the alder ask why not was “Why do you think!?” 

Not trying to be a jerk, but it’s practically the worst neighborhood in New Haven. That’s the reality of it. Bikes are among the most common and easiest things to steal, even in a decent neighborhood. Too many possible issues for it to be worth it, I’m guessing. I dunno, seems obvious. And yes, it’s a damn shame.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on March 24, 2017  8:23am

There will be a fixed number of stations in the first stage of the program. As Anonymous notes, the stations need to be close together for people to use the program. As a result, there will be few if any stations in Newhallville in the first stage. This is not a class/race issue. There also likely to be few if any stations in Westville or Morris Cove in the first stage. In contrast, Dwight will likely have several stations.

BTR, you’re right that SeeClickFix users do not fully represent city residents. The city held public meetings on the program at the main library, Career High School, and Fair Haven School. People can also phone in station requests to 203.946.8078 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Jiim1, in exchange for its funding, CitiBank gets to put its logo on the bikes and stations. But the system is owned amd operated by a separate company, Motivate, which in turn is owned by Equinox gyms and Related Companies, a major real estate developer.

posted by: concerned_neighbor on March 24, 2017  8:48am

Well, I’m not surprised. Alders insisting on micromanaging contracts that will lead to failure of the bike share initiative. First, the alders are insisting on a five year term instead of ten years. The ROR on these types of programs is very low. Five years isn’t going to be profitable for the management company. The management company shouldn’t be contractually bound to expand to where the politicians think the bike stations need to be located. Second, insisting on stations in your neighborhood when the data suggests that dense deployment in other neighbors will result in long term success just isn’t smart. And tabling the proposal for 30 days is just as good as denial.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 24, 2017  9:08am

Legislative rider: Alder Adam Marchand samples prototype at hearing.

He should ride out of town with the rubber stamp voting record he has.

Clyburn and DeCola: What about Newhallvillle?.

Becareful what you ask for for the hood.

Harlem activists fight Citibike program expansion, slam it as ‘gateway to gentrification’

Harlem leaders want Citibike to keep its cycle of gentrification out of their neighborhood.“This bike-share is the gateway to gentrification,” community leader Martin Baez said at a town hall meeting Thursday. “We cannot continue to allow the Mayor’s office, the Governor’s office, or any other office to tell us what we should do. This is our community.The city Department of Transportation plans to expand its Citibike program into Harlem this year. About 50 people attended the Harlem town hall in the gymnasium at Taino Towers where residents debated the merits of having Citibike in their neighborhood.Opponents have a variety of issues with the program. They say membership costs $150 per year, but renting the bikes requires a debit or credit card — which many Harlem residents don’t have. They also say bike—share stations take up too much space on side walks and along the streets.

I am the voice of the people.Amandla!!!

posted by: JCFremont on March 24, 2017  7:51pm

I fear the below dialogue between Alder Clyburn and Hausladen may be standard for New Haven Politics. One group of residents “attends” meetings, the other group is ruled by the local chieftain who keeps out any outside interlopers for they will only meet with the king or queen to receive their annual stipend. Hausladen’s last quote drives home my point.

“I see that Newhallville is not on the launch for this bike share,” Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn told Hausladen. “I would like for this to be launched in our area. I think it’s very important that this project be launched in Newhallville. If you did not choose Newhallville, I would like to know why.”

“I can easily answer that,” Hausladen responded. “Number one, we haven’t chosen a single neighborhood yet for bike stations. This is where residents of New Haven at the meetings we’ve been able to attend have stood up and said, “I want a station here.’ I think you’re aware of how many times I’ve been trying to come to the Newhallville management team meetings and have been called the day of and told not to come.”

posted by: DSalinas on March 25, 2017  7:07pm

The city of New Haven needs this program and if Newhallville wants a bike station we should make it happen. I spoke with Doug Hausladen about this and we’ve decided to raise money to get them a station during the initial launch.

I’ve created an Indiegogo campaign on and District New Haven is going to kick in $3,000 toward the $12,000 needed for Newhallville’s bike station. Let’s all get involved and make this happen! The link below will take you to the fundraising campaign.

Thanks Doug for pushing to make the city more mobile. You are doing a kick-ass job.

posted by: brownetowne on March 27, 2017  3:40pm

Do we really need this bike rental program?  I would suggest that the city would benefit by providing better routes to ride bikes, and better storage areas for bicycles (by better I mean something other than a parking meter or a “bikerack” that resembles a vegetable).  Since this program is not free, why would someone be better served by spending money on a rental vs. purchasing their own bicycle?

posted by: DSalinas on March 27, 2017  6:00pm

@browntowne bike share programs are often used by people that are commuting in via public transport. For example, in NYC I take metro north into Grand Central station and jump on a citibike. It can be fast than train if you aren’t near a line that works. It can be better than a taxi during rush hour or uber during the inflated pricing.

I see people using the bike share at District to get downtown or to travel around upper-state without driving.

posted by: William Kurtz on March 27, 2017  8:57pm

A properly running bike share program is not really a bike rental; a better comparison is public transit. Like the bus, a bike share is a way for a user to make a trip between points on a network. With a dense enough distribution, it can get pretty close to the kind of door-to-door utility that you can get walking or with a personal bike or car.

Let’s say, for example, that a user who lives in Hamden is working at the District development on State St. Maybe she drives in to work in the morning but wants to get a coffee or bagel a little later on. She takes a bike from the station at the District and rides down to East Rock Coffee, or the Coffee Pedaler, or Cafe Romeo—you get the idea—and then back to the office. At lunch she needs to go to a bank and post office downtown. She takes the bike from the station, rides it to a downtown station and locks it up. She visits her bank and decides to walk over to the post office (it’s a nice day) where she picks up a different bike from another station and rides it back to the district. In the evening, there’s a concert on the Green so there’s another ride to a downtown station.

There is a real space for this program in New Haven but Brownetowne, you have an excellent point. The infrastructure is not really there yet and as much as Doug Hausladen and Giovanni Zinn are trying their hardest to bring big changes, those changes are not there yet. There’s a protected striped on Long Wharf and the delineators were going in before the end of 2016, but they’re not there yet. There’s another lane ready to go in on Edgewood Avenue, but construction is tentatively supposed to start this summer. There was another lane designed years ago, for the Tomlinson Bridge area, as part of the 95 bridge project (and I believe included in the state funding for that project) that has yet to appear.

(My apologies; I’m going to run over into a second comment . . . )

posted by: William Kurtz on March 27, 2017  9:05pm

I commend Mr. Salinas on his commitment to seeing Newhallville included in this program but I question whether a private internet fundraiser is the way to make that happen. Why should that neighborhood have to raise money for something the downtown area is getting for free? (as proposed, the bike share program will not use city dollars). I am prepared to hear the counterargument, but I see two problems: one is the expectation that an already underserved neighborhood is being asked to pony up for an improvement, and the second is the haphazard distribution of stations that’s likely to result if every group that wants one turns to GoFundMe.

Managed correctly, these programs are a big boon to cities but it’s not as though none of them have ever failed. We’re only to get one chance to start it off right and if it’s not rolled out in a way that makes it useable, and if potential users don’t feel they can use it safely and effectively, it’s not going to work.

posted by: DSalinas on March 28, 2017  1:39am

@william kurtz all we are trying to do is move the ball forward. The program should absolutely launch in the areas with the most density to start and expand from there. NYC’s citibike program started in 2013 with 6000 bikes. As of March 31, 2016, the total number of annual subscribers hit 163,865. Citi Bike riders took an average of 38,491 rides per day in 2016. Citi Bike has 10,000 bikes from 603 stations, though by the end of 2017, it plans to increase its bike fleet to 12,000 and add 375 docking stations.

Starting with 30 stations and 300 bikes is a great start. I’d expect 1000 bikes in 3-5 years if all goes well.

We just want to see this thing move forward already. This city needs progress. Steady progress.

posted by: William Kurtz on March 28, 2017  8:11am

“We just want to see this thing move forward already. This city needs progress. Steady progress.”

Agreed. My concern is that progress has not always been steady and like Zeno’s arrow, we never quite seem to arrive at the kind of word-class bicycle infrastructure most people can agree that the city—and the greater New Haven region as a whole—needs and deserves.


Of particular interest is the comment from ‘New Haven Taxpayer’:

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on May 2, 2013 8:57pm

This is awesome! I thought it would be ten more years to see this begin to happen. I ride the east shore route during the warmer months and on the Tomlinson bridge I use the sidewalk (illegally, I know) because the traffic zips by at 70+mph and scares the crap out of me.
Really, really psyched about this. Nice job Mr Travers.

I wonder if that person is still reading? We’re 40% of the way there . . .

Please don’t get me wrong. I think that Doug Hausladen and Giovanni Zinn are doing the best they can given the various legislative, political, and economic obstacles in their path. I don’t doubt for a second given free rein, they would have separated bike lanes all crossing the entire city. As I understand it, the Edgewood Avenue bike lane (first proposed more than two years ago and the second lane, after Forbes Avenue, that doesn’t yet exist but was going to be the ‘first’) is crawling through a morass of state approvals. The third ‘first’ lane, on Long Wharf Drive, has been striped but not yet delineated.

Let’s get these things built!