Wheels Keep Turning

Wheels Keep Turning

From Citi Bike cyclist to bike share champion

When Omar Arias, 22, first heard about Citi Bike’s discounted membership for NYCHA residents, he knew it was a great deal he didn’t want to pass up. NYCHA residents 16 years and older can join Citi Bike for just $5 a month and get unlimited rides all year. What he didn’t know was that his enthusiasm would lead to a new role with Citi Bike: Community Champion. 

“When I signed up, I also got my friend to sign up, too,” said Arias, who’s lived in King Towers his entire life. “We used the bikes last summer to travel through Central Park, to go check out new places to eat and to hang out. It became our transportation option because we didn’t want to pay for the subway anymore.”

Community Champions are NYCHA residents who help with outreach at NYCHA developments on the benefits of joining Citi Bike. Omar and three other young residents from Marcy and Amsterdam Houses were the first group of Champions. In return for their work, they received free Citi Bike memberships and incentives for each new bike share member they enrolled. 

Citi Bike worked with community-based organization Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation to hire, train, and manage the first group of Champions. Restoration received part of a national grant from Better Bike Share Partnership to increase bike share membership among people of color and in low-income communities.

“We partnered with Citi Bike and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to change the perception of bike riding and bike sharing and improve health among low-income people in Brooklyn,” said Tracey Capers, Executive Vice President of Programs/Organizational Development at Restoration. “The best people to sell the effort to the community are people from the community, people who are a part of the neighborhoods we are trying to reach.”

As a Champion, Omar attended resident association meetings and handed out free day passes, talked about Citi Bike at a Family Day in East Harlem and a block party on the Lower East Side, and led a community bike ride. He also spoke at a press conference about Citi Bike with City Council members. 

“Bike sharing is easy and fun; you can get exercise; you can travel around the City and sight-see, and it’s a more independent transportation option because you don’t have to wait for a bus or a train to come, you can just hop on and ride. If you think about the MTA fare and the cost of a gym membership, this is a way more affordable option. This is something I believe in,” he said.

“Citi Bike is deeply committed to serving all New Yorkers,” said Anne Krassner, Citi Bike’s education and outreach manager. “We are excited to build on the Champion program this year and use the expertise of NYCHA residents to recruit more of their neighbors to this affordable, healthy way to get around.” 

This year, Citi and Motivate, operators of the Citi Bike program, will be recruiting citywide for Public Housing Champions. If you are interested, call 347-916-0719 or email marketing@citibikenyc.com. NYCHA residents interested in purchasing a Citi Bike membership for $5 a month can visit www.citibikenyc.com/pricing/nycha.

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