Citi Bike Forced to Relocate Brickell Racks Over Resident Complaints

In December, Citi Bike crossed the bridge from South Beach to the mainland and celebrated its 50 new stations with a party at Bayfront Park. Some residents in Brickell haven't been celebrating the arrival of the bike share, though.

In fact, so many residents complained about the 38-foot racks eating up scarce parking along the bay that the city commission is now forcing Citi Bike to tear up and relocate four new stations. Commissioners are also agitating for the county to offer its public land so less public parking is lost to the cycles.

Amid what advocates rightly proclaim as the bike share's notable success in the Magic City, the public fight is illuminating lingering tension between businesses and residents and the tourist-friendly program.

"This is not something that should leave the pro-bike people or the anti-bike people up in arms. There's plenty of room for compromise on this problem," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff tells New Times.

Sarnoff sparked the change to Citi Bike stands in Brickell at last week's city commission meeting after his office had been inundated with complaints from residents about three stands on Brickell Bay Drive and another on 25th Avenue.

The problem, he claimed, was a lack of communication from city and company officials with local businesses and residents. (Citi Bike's spokesman didn't return messages seeking comment for this story.)

"I told the city at the inception of this program: 'Please get a written confirmation from the adjacent property owners before you pick a location,'" Sarnoff says. "That fell on deaf ears."

Sarnoff says a similar problem was headed off at Coconut Grove Elementary School, where a rack was scheduled to go in a high-traffic pick-up and drop-off area. When school administrators and parents complained, the site was quickly relocated.

The racks on Brickell Bay Drive, however, didn't cause controversy until they were installed.

A parade of residents spoke to the city commission last Thursday, testifying how the three to four parking spots each rack ate up on the street was making life miserable in the traffic-clogged artery.

Among those testifying was Rita Suarez, Commissioner Francis Suarez's mother.

"We have had these racks there, taking up three spaces, which is not a big deal to the general public but is a big deal to us," she said.

The commission agreed and voted to relocated the stations. Citi Bike is in the process of finding a new home for them and expects to make the move within the next week, city officials say.

But there's one wrench in the process: The City of Miami has partnered with Citi Bike, but the county has not. So the majority of spaces available for racks are surface parking spots, just like the ones that caused all the trouble in Brickell.

The county, if it got involved, could place racks at convenient locations like Metromover stations. A city official says the county is looking into the idea but has significantly more red tape to navigate before it could happen.

"What we should be doing is asking the county to place these on their rights of way," Sarnoff says.

Big picture, the Brickell fight is a minor speed bump in a program that's been posting growing ridership in Miami Beach and, according to city officials, strong early numbers across the bay on the mainland.

The last empty racks in Wynwood began filling with bikes this week, and the Brickell racks will find new homes soon.

But Sarnoff hopes there will be better communication going forward. "It's still a great opportunity for the city," he says.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink