Q&A with Laura Fox!
Laura Fox is currently Lyft’s General Manager and Senior Director for Citi Bike, where she oversees strategy, growth, operations, marketing, new product launches, and the local P&L – as well as community engagement and the public-private partnership with New York City and New Jersey.
Laura is passionate about cities, climate, tech, and cultural entrepreneurship – and has shaped a multi-faceted global career that combines long-term strategic perspectives with the nuts-and-bolts experience to make things happen.
We had the great pleasure of talking to Laura about how micro mobility is a key part in creating more sustainable cities and how Citi Bike is paving the way for this change.
Q: Tell us about Citi Bike
A: Citi Bike is part of Lyft and is a core part of delivering on the Lyft mission to deliver the world’s best transportation. In 2019, Lyft committed $100M to doubling the size of the Citi Bike service area, and we’re mid-way through that dramatic geographic expansion now. Already Citi Bike has the largest number of bikes and stations of any bikeshare system in the world outside of East Asia and will surpass or rival the small handful of larger systems by the end of 2024.
To help contextualise that scale a bit further – in 2021, Citi Bike had nearly 28 million rides from 1.3 million unique riders (and to date has more than 157 million lifetime rides). If Citi Bike were a public transit system, it would be the 25th largest in the United States based on ridership last year, with more than the SF BART system and nearly as many as the PATH train in New Jersey and New York.
All of these stats are important as they speak to micro mobility as a transportation system, that – through strong public-private partnerships – can be an instrumental, resilient, healthy part way that people get around cities.
Q: What has been the impact of Citi Bike and has the impact changed since COVID?
A: Citi Bike is the fastest growing transportation system in New York City’s history and that allowed it to help meet the moment during the pandemic. In 2020, we saw tens of thousands of critical workers turn to Citi Bike as their primary mode of transportation, and hospitals shot up to the top of the most used stations list. Interestingly, we also saw leisure rides expand significantly and bring in a significant number of new riders to bikeshare for the first time, many of whom are now becoming regular users. This includes a growing number of low-income and BIPOC riders. Our Reduced Fare Bikeshare program has more than doubled in size and 61% of our riders now identify as being part of a racial or ethnic minority group.
Overall, we saw the resilience of bikeshare as a key theme. Bikeshare ridership returned to and surpassed previous highs much faster than other modes of transportation, feeding off the global Bike Boom, and playing an important complementary role as part of the regional transit system.
Q: How important do you believe ebikes and micromobility to be on the road to net-zero and to more sustainable cities?
A: Bikes, ebikes, and micro mobility overall are essential to building more sustainable cities. There’s a lot of hype over “big EVs” like Tesla and others dominating news cycles. But big EVs can only reduce emissions from a standard gas-powered car by 50% (compared to an ebike at 92%). There are a lot of dependencies there: (1) how “clean” the grid is, and (2) grid capacity. For example, it’s estimated that upgrading the grid in the U.S. to support EVs will cost $125B; currently $5B is dedicated to this work in the U.S.’s largest infrastructure bill in decades. So, we need to focus on reducing individual car ownership overall, and getting folks onto more sustainable models – from ebikes to walking, public transit, shared rides, etc.
To wax poetic about ebikes for a moment as the fastest-selling electric vehicle of any type in the US: at Citi Bike, we see ebikes used for longer trips (almost double the milage on average), they make up over 60% of trips across bridges despite being 20% of the fleet, they’re great for commuting as you don’t break a sweat, and they can take you in directions that the buses or subways don’t go where you’d otherwise need a car. To that point, a number of national studies have found that after people start riding ebikes, they replace 70% of their vehicle miles with ebike usage. So, they’re an incredible car replacer.
Q: What do you think will be the next big thing in the mobility industry that we will see over the years?
A: First, I’m hopeful that we see more cities want to replicate the success of micromobility networks like Citi Bike, to build long-term, resilient active transportation networks that help people get from point A to B faster, cheaper, greener, and healthier.
With the rise of micromobility ridership for both personal use as well as for delivery (with cities like NYC seeing 3.6M+ package deliveries per day), I hope that we’ll start to see more (and faster) road infrastructure changes roll out that support these light eclectic vehicle form factors – from more dedicated lanes, to lower car speeds, congestion pricing, and more.
Q: Is public-private ownership the way forward to grow the system? If so, how?
A: Definitely. For example, our relationship with NYCDOT is critical to the important role Citi Bike plays in helping New Yorkers get around. Our public-private partnership has a number of foundational elements to make the program successful today and into the future. Just to name a few of them: 1) Station density – anywhere within the network needs to be within 5 min or less of a Citi Bike station, and NYCDOT plays a critical role in helping us site stations; 2) Robust transit connections – our joint planning process with NYCDOT ensures that we facilitate first/last mile trips from public transit, and cluster density near those stations. As a result, more than 90% of Citi Bike riders use a bike to get to/from transit. 3) Protected bike lanes – there are nearly 600 miles of protected lanes in NYC today, and Mayor Adams just committed to building nearly $1B worth of more over the coming years. We’ve seen consistently that protected bike lanes bring out larger and more diverse groups of riders.
Q: What can we expect to see from Citi Bike in the next few years?
A: We’ll soon have more than 40,000 bikes throughout the Citi Bike network, covering 60% of the NYC population and 70% of NYCHA residences. While on this fast-paced growth, we’re also committed to rolling out new products that riders love — most recently, this includes our next-generation ebike with a more powerful motor (for easier bridge riding), retroreflective paint (for better visibility at night), and double the battery capacity so that bikes are available more often and can be ridden even further.
Q: What are you excited for about MOVE America? And what topics will you be addressing when you’re there?
A: It’s great that MOVE covers so many types of mobility – from micromobility to freight and more. I’m looking forward to discussions with folks across sectors, and to trying out lots of new products as well. My keynote will address many of the points above.
Laura will be joining us at MOVE America in Austin this September to talk about how micromobility is playing a crucial role in creating greener cities.
To find out more head to: MOVE America