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NYC's Plaza Hotel Says Citi Bike Racks Must Go

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Investment & Markets

Apparently, New York's fourth most-famous hotel hasn’t read our series on the value of bike share programs to local businesses. The iconic Plaza Hotel in Manhattan is suing the city’s Department of Transportation and Citi Bike for creating an “eye sore” in front of its grand entrance. The prestigious hotel is demanding that Citi Bike remove the racks, which it says are an affront and out of place, particularly with the large blue advertising signs that are visible from the hotel.

The suit was filed October 11 and accuses the city of creating a hazard for traffic by reducing four lanes on Fifth Avenue to three in order to install the bright blue bike racks. It was filed on behalf of permanent condo residents as well as the hotel.

“The bicycle rack is not only an eyesore, stuck squarely in between two of the city’s most famous designated landmarks, but it came at the expense of a full lane of traffic,” the suit alleges.

Plaza Hotel: Bike racks location 'Disrespectful'

Plaza Hotel lawyer Steven Sladkus also suggested that the city ignored its own requirements for an environmental impact study when it approved the installation. He noted that there were other alternatives to placing the rack directly in front of the hotel’s entrance and suggested that the placement was “capricious and disrespectful.”

Recent studies in Minneapolis and Vancouver, BC Canada found that businesses often reap the benefits of bike share programs. The University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs found that local businesses gained on average $29,000 in restaurants and other businesses during peak season from April-November.

“And extrapolating that for the entire population of Twin Cities Nice Ride subscribers would generate an additional $150,000 over the season,” noted the university’s Center for Transportation Studies. Venues that offered sit-down attractions, such as restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, coffee shops and other settings geared toward tourism were the most likely to benefit.

Research has also found that bike share stations make areas safer by increasing traffic, says New York’s Project for Public Spaces.

Citi Bike: A boon for Manhattan hospitality industry?

And a report released by Virginia Tech suggests that the Plaza may be missing an opportunity to attract customers and promote its historic New York amenities. Some hotels see bike share stations as an added plus to their neighborhood, offering a convenient, relaxing way to see nearby landmarks and attractions. In many cities, hotels see those brightly painted bike share logos not as unwanted advertising, but as a symbol of the amenities they can offer their customers.

New York’s Citi Bike program was launched in June and enjoyed immediate success. Demand quickly outstripped supply, and the program was encouraged to step up its installation. Citi Bike now has hundreds of stations across the city and one of the largest bike share programs in the world.

Since its launch however, the program has been challenged by a number of lawsuits, including residents in West Village who didn’t like having their parking places replaced by Citi Bike racks.

Neither the city or Citi Bike has indicated whether it plans to relocate the racks from their current location outside the Plaza Hotel entrance.

Image of Plaza Hotel, New York City courtesy of Infratec

Image of Citi Bike launch courtesy of NYCDOT

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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