David Stone
Roosevelt Island Citi Bike Story Goes Weird
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The Roosevelt Island Citi Bike dilemma reminds us of Schrödinger's Cat, a famous thought experiment among physicists in which the cat is actually in two different states at the same time. The cat is alive and dead simultaneously. The political variation may be playing out in virtual reality as the possibility of blue bike racks here stirs imaginations and nothing else. 

Our article, yesterday, detailed the unsettled state of Citi Bike for Roosevelt Island. That appeared to be resolved with a definitive "No."

But then, City Council Member Ben Kallos dug in. Kallos advocates for Citi Bike to land here. Similar advocacy over five years brought a bike rack to the foot of the Queensboro Bridge, proving that patience is a productive virtue...

...and that prodding the Department of Transportation and other entrenched bureaucracies to action can resemble Sisyphus at the task, but with a slight chance of winning.

The Daily pushed too.

After nearly twenty-four hours, during which our article was posted, one of five DOT Press Office folks was stirred to respond.

We reminded them, in a chain that linked through the Mayor's Press Office, that Roosevelt Island was on the map for Phase 3 but not on the list. "Is or is not Roosevelt Island included?" we asked.

"Yes -- it is included," wrote Alana Morales, a DOT Deputy Press Secretary.

Our follow up, "Can you tell me why Roosevelt Island wasn’t mentioned, our City Council Member not notified and what the time frame is?" went unanswered.

Let me explain.

Politics being what it is, when something significant happens, press officials follow a standard template that assures that everyone's back gets scratched. That is, highlighted in a boldface list, all the relevant politicians get to weigh in on the achievement.

So, why wasn't Ben Kallos invited to express his satisfaction at finally getting Citi Bike committed to Roosevelt Island? Five other City Council Members took credit for their neighborhoods.

The Mayor crowed so loud, he urged compliments from two State Assembly Members who had next to nothing to do with program, but guess who was absent? Rebecca Seawright, AM for Roosevelt Island.

Ad hoc political butt covering at work to paint over a mayoral flub?

More important in the long run is the absence of concrete commitment, leaving the project, in the words of one inside observer, in limbo: "In theory, Roosevelt Island is included but there is no schedule or plan to actually do it."

Schrödinger's Cat, remember? The cat is actually in two different states at the same time, as is the Citi Bike installation on Roosevelt Island.

Like a boyfriend who declares his commitment to marry but never sets a date, the DOT claims to be all in for Roosevelt Island bicycle enthusiasts but has not actually said they'd do anything concrete about it.

Some asked, "Where's RIOC on this?" 

We're in a quandary between "elsewhere" and "invisible," but that's unfair. We plan to ask RIOC, already champions of the majestic $15 million bike ramp, as indications are that they may be more involved than what seems apparent, as we turn the soil of the virtual reality that is local governing.

How any of us feel about the prospect of Citi Bike inviting wobbly tourists to Main Street, though, is not as meaningful until we get someone reliable to tell us what's actually going on.