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Uphill battle: Citi Bike struggles to restock Bklyn docks in elevated nabes, exec says

Bring ‘em back!: Citi Bike honchos are offering extra perks to the rental service’s members who enroll in a program to help return bikes to certain docking stations in Prospect and Crown Heights, where commuters often grab bicycles for their morning commutes but opt for other public transportation in the evening so they do not have to pedal home uphill.
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It’s all downhill from these neighborhoods.

Citi Bike users in some hilly parts of Brooklyn are pedaling their rented two-wheelers downward, but not back up again, according to a honcho of the program, who said riders frequently fail to re-dock bikes at stations in Prospect and Crown Heights because they’re located on higher ground.

“There’s higher elevation in those areas and, not surprisingly, bikes tend to go downhill,” said Collin Waldoch, who manages programs for the Citibank-sponsored rental service and lives in Prospect Heights.

Although neither neighborhood boasts the borough’s highest peak — that honor belongs to Green-Wood Cemetery’s 194-foot-tall Battle Hill — the stretch of Eastern Parkway that cuts through Prospect and Crown Heights, at 164 feet, towers over other lowland nabes such as Downtown and Dumbo that local cyclists commute on the road to get to, according to topographic maps.

And the incline — coupled with riders’ tendency to use Citi Bikes in the morning on their way to work, but switch to other forms of public transportation for their evening commutes — makes it harder for the service to refill docking stations in the residential neighborhoods where it last year debuted plans to install roughly 400 new bicycles, Waldoch said.

“In general, we see there is more commuting in the morning than in the evening,” he said.

But Citi Bike bigwigs recently announced an initiative to supplement the rental service’s in-house bicycle-restocking operation in the area, in which it offers members who join its Bike Angels corps — who earn points towards membership renewals by ferrying two-wheelers to understocked docks — extra incentives to return the rides to locations in Prospect and Crown Heights.

The special program, entitled Operation Edge Explorers, gives participants until March 16 to earn up to five times the amount of points they normally would for dropping off bikes at empty docks in the nabes, Waldoch said.

“We saw this as an area that can be challenging because of those factors,” he said. “It’s neat to harness the power of those incentives, and the power of Bike Angels to help us in these more difficult areas.”

Anyone interested in joining the Operation Edge Explorers initiative must first purchase an annual Citi Bike membership and enroll in the free Bike Angels program at bikeangels.citibikenyc.com.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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