Thanks to a new deal with the city, next-gen ebikes (you know, the silver ones) will soon account for a full 50% of the Citi Bike fleet.
Why more ebikes? Well, evidence suggests they are greener and more equitable than other modes of transportation. And since Citi Bike introduced them in 2018, they’ve become an integral part of New Yorkers’ daily lives.
In honor of the occasion, Rev dove into Lyft’s Citi Bike data — and found five major ways that New Yorkers use the silver ebike to get around.
#1 Longer-distance commutes
The video above depicts where ebikes are docked on any given Monday. In the early morning, ebikes are concentrated in residential neighborhoods, like the Upper West Side and Bed Stuy. By midmorning, they have migrated to office-centric neighborhoods in lower and middle Manhattan, filling stations from FiDi to the bottom of Central Park. In midtown, the majority of silver ebikes stay there until around 7 p.m., when they begin to trickle out of the center of Manhattan, largely returning to the neighborhoods they came from.
This migration pattern suggests that ebikes are predominantly used for commutes, in particular, those that span more than a mile: Rides by silver ebikes are over twice as long (2.5 miles vs. 1.1 miles) as those on classic bikes during commute hours (7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday). One of the most popular stations is W. 38th and Broadway, which holds 15 silver ebikes, on average, at 4 p.m. on weekdays (way above the 1.7 ebike average at this time). As Rev observed on a cycle-by ride, the station, located amid looming office buildings, is frequented by New Yorkers in business casual (which speaks to another benefit of the ebike: a relatively sweat-free commute).
New Yorkers in Queens display similar commuting patterns: Silver ebikes tend to spend the night in the largely residential neighborhoods of Corona and Jackson Heights, on the outskirts of the Citi Bike network, but by midday, they travel west, taking up residence in Long Island City and Sunnyside, close to LaGuardia Community College and other office buildings.
#2 Rides to public transit
Silver ebikes also help connect commuters to and from public transit. In the video below, watch how the stations of Bergen Ave. & Sip Ave. and Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey swell with silver ebikes in the middle of a Monday and then deflate come evening. Both stations sit near transit hubs (Journal Square and the PATH Hoboken Station, respectively), indicating the silver ebikes offer services as first-mile / last-mile transportation for NJ commuters.
#3 Weekend trips to green spaces
Ebikes are much less likely to stay in Manhattan over the weekend. Unlike classic bikes, they flow out to the Bronx and Brooklyn, congregating around the biggest parks in the city.
On a Saturday at 3 p.m., Tiebout Ave. & E. Fordham Road and Southern Blvd. in the Bronx, mere minutes from Crotona Park and Bronx Park, respectively, hold roughly nine ebikes (way above the average of 1.6). In Brooklyn, another nine cluster at Plaza St. East & Flatbush Ave. station, right at the tip of Prospect Park. It’s not clear why New Yorkers are choosing ebikes over regular bikes for their weekend excursions to the park, but it could be because ebikes are easier on the body and make the jaunt available to a wider range of individuals.
#4 Trips that defy gravity
Traditional pedal bikes, like water, tend to flow downhill.
Below, we have plotted bike availability in Brooklyn, by elevation of each neighborhood. The first graph, showing traditional bikes, demonstrates a downward trend, in which bikes cluster in neighborhoods with low elevation, like Red Hook and Gowanus.
But ebikes are the opposite. The second graph shows that silver ebikes, in fact, tend to concentrate in higher elevation neighborhoods, like Crown Heights and Prospect Heights.
Considering that one of the great joys of riding an ebike is zipping effortlessly up hills, this inverse relationship isn’t too surprising.
#5 Evenings out
There’s one last major use case for silver ebikes — going out in the evenings. The video below shows how next-gen ebikes cluster in the bar- and restaurant-heavy neighborhoods of the East Village and Alphabet City on Friday and Saturday nights. In fact, the East Village has 83% more ebikes from the hours of 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturday nights than it does any other time of the week. Clearly an ebike hot spot — it accumulates only 15% more classic bikes in the same time frame. So it seems that when New Yorkers are going out, they prefer a sweat-free electric boost. Gotta look fresh and save those legs for dancing, after all!