George Bliss has lived in New York City for 37 years and, for much of that time, he’s been a passionate bike advocate, credited with coining the term “critical mass.” Since 1995, he has designed, built, repaired, rented, and sold bicycles of all kinds. For the past decade, he’s run a shop in Greenwich Village, currently known as HUB Cycles on Charles Street.
I talked to George a couple of weeks ago when I learned from a reader that HUB will soon be closing, another victim of the city's corporatization.
Bliss blames Citibike.
*UPDATE: There will be a press conference today:
"PRESS CONFERENCE at the HUB 1 PM TUESDAY, Dec 15
139 Charles St., btwn Charles & Washington St., The West Village
Contact George Bliss: 212- 965-9334 • Please Come and support the HUB"
photo credit: Emilie Ross
“I can’t do it anymore,” says Bliss. “Citibike is surrounding us and cutting into our revenues.”
Surrounded is right. There are five Citibike stations within five blocks of HUB, Bliss explains. And since Citibike came to town just a year and a half ago, the shop’s income has dropped by 50 percent.
Locals who used to rent the bikes at HUB now ride Citibikes, and there’s no trickle-down effect. It’s not just the rental business that has been severely impacted, HUB’s sales and repair services have also been hurt.
“It’s a monopoly,” says Bliss. “The city government has installed a monopoly. I can’t compete.”
“The New Yorker in me is affronted by this. It’s okay to have people carrying a corporate ad through the streets? It would be like having Walmart Avenue or McDonald’s Bridge or Google Park. What’s the difference?”
Bliss would like to see the corporate logos come off the bike share program and for the costs to be paid by fees, not by corporate subsidies that can rent the bikes at far below market value, making it impossible for locals to compete.
He says, “The small local businesses that built the bike culture should not be forced out by this weed. Citibike is an invasive species.”
HUB will close shop this month. From there, Bliss plans to put his energy into organizing the city’s local bike shops—to put an end to the rolling blue billboards.
Bliss also spoke to The Villager newspaper--read there for more.