Pitting bikes vs. art

Well, bike-share is off and rolling in New York City, and as of this past weekend, the new program is now open to users on a daily and weekly basis, as opposed to annual membership.

The Citi Bikes are pretty much everywhere. Every tenth cycle or so whizzing by on the Hudson River Park bikeway, for example, seems to be one.

You can spot them, not only by their distinctive blue hue, but by the fact that their lights are always on — thanks to a reserve power source built up from the users’ pedaling.

No, admittedly, these aren’t streamlined racing bikes or even fairly fast hybrids. But they’re solid, serviceable. And it’s good to see that they’re being used, and that more folks are out biking, be they New Yorkers or tourists.

There have been glitches and problems, for sure. On Tuesday, we saw a bike-share mechanic replacing a credit-card swiper in the Citi Bike kiosk at 11th St. and Second Ave. — apparently someone had poured a salty substance into the slot, disabling it. But the mechanic seemed very capable, and it’s good to see this program is also creating jobs.

However, as everyone is well aware by now, the siting of the bike-share docking stations has been a cause of concern for many residents and merchants. The city’s Department of Transportation has addressed some of the complaints, by shortening certain docks, such as on Bank St., or, in at least one case — on Renwick St., in Hudson Square — by completely relocating the station to another street. We hear the Fire Department has also gotten some docks shifted where they were blocking fire trucks’ ability to make turns.

Without weighing in on every bike dock in the Downtown area, we do think one location, in particular, presents a unique situation that D.O.T. needs to consider.

We’re referring to Petrosino Square, at Spring and Lafayette Sts., in Soho. As area residents have been saying in their protests and petition — and as The Villager reports in this week’s issue — Petrosino Square has regularly hosted public art displays since 1984. This is, after all, Soho, a neighborhood world-renowned — or at least once renowned — for its artistic life. Although Broadway and Prince and Spring Sts. have long since morphed into glitzy shopping strips, the artistic spirit lives on in Soho, and in what today many call Nolita, as seen in the creative protests that denizens have been doing in the square ever since the bike docks arrived.

What’s more, it’s clear that, in Petrosino Square’s recent renovation, the Parks Department designed the triangle’s northern end to be open, in part to accommodate public art. Indeed, Parks e-mails leaked to The Villager by a Petrosino activist state this, and also make it clear that Bill Castro, Parks Manhattan borough commissioner, felt it was inappropriate to site the bike-share dock here. Yet, D.O.T. went ahead and put the bike-share dock right on the spot designated — or, at least, seemingly designated — for public art.

Of course, the number-one concern is safety. Cleveland Place, on the square’s eastern edge, actually does get slammed by traffic fairly often, and this five-way intersection has some confusing traffic patterns. If the Petrosino bike-share dock can be relocated into the street bed somewhere nearby — without compromising the safety of cyclists, pedestrians or drivers — then, by all means, we support this. From what we’ve seen, most of the bike docks actually are in the street bed, so it’s not clear why this Soho location had to be different.

Clearly, the Petrosino protesters are fiercely protective of this small public space, and want to see it restored as a display area for public art. The record of 30 years of public art isn’t going away — and neither will the protesters. There’s a simple way D.O.T. can end this standoff: Just move the bike-share station.

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