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We need business stimulus – what we get are bikes!

[preamble]Ah yes Citibank wants to change their image. The bank that made billions off of the housing crash, the bank that than completely pulled out of the lending market, the bank that treats any small business or individual like a second class citizen. That citi bank wants us to eat bikes! Bikes that are not even free but cost money to rent. This will certainly provide the much business stimulus our economy needs to generate jobs. When this folly ends….. Perhaps Citibank should make loans and mortgages more easily available to us or better yet GET BACK IN THE US LENDING MARKET! [backtopost]

How the financial crisis spawned Citi Bike

The roots of Citigroup’s sponsorship of New York’s new bike share program grew from the 2008 financial crisis and a Bloomberg official’s call to Ed Skyler, a former deputy mayor.

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New York City may have the financial crisis to thank for its new bike share program.

In late 2008, some feared Citigroup might be headed toward a Lehman Brothers-like demise. But after two federal bailouts, the bank is now on the tip of every New Yorker’s tongue as the long-awaited bike share program bearing the company’s name gets rolling.

It’s no coincidence. Since the financial crisis, it has been a top priority at Citi to fix the bank’s image in the consciousness of New Yorkers and to undo any perception that banks are more interested in serving themselves than their clients.

“One of the mandates has been to increase our visibility in New York, the entire U.S. and globally—and to do it creatively,” said Ed Skyler, executive vice president for the bank’s global public affairs and a former deputy mayor under Michael Bloomberg. “We have about 20,000 people in New York City, which makes us the second largest private employer. We’re the largest employer in Queens. If you thought about Citigroup a few years ago, you might not have experienced our presence the way we thought you should for a company as big as we are here. We have done a lot to fix that since the crisis.”

Citi has made a $41 million commitment to bike share over six years. That’s a sliver of the reported $20 million to $25 million annual price tag for its Citi Field naming rights, but arguably much more cost-effective. With 10,000 logos roaming the streets and on thousands of fobs in New Yorkers’ pockets, Citi is hoping to attract new customers.

“Hopefully we’ll see an uptick in New York City,” Mr. Skyler said. “Visually [the bikes are] eye-catching. They really pop in the urban landscape that tends toward darker, grayish tones. Our consumer marketing team and [program vendor] Alta’s NYC Bike Share worked hand-in-glove since signing the deal to make sure it reflected Citi’s branding.”

Mr. Skyler, a former deputy mayor for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left the administration in 2010, but has maintained an open line of communication with City Hall. Mr. Skyler served as the original point person for the public-private partnership.

“The Department of Transportation commissioner initially reached out to me,” said Mr. Skyler, referring to Janette Sadik-Khan. “I recommended the program to our consumer marketing team and they ultimately decided to do it. Among other things, we looked at the experience Barclays had in London [sponsoring bike share], where they are known as ‘Barclays bikes.'”

As for glitches and complaints surrounding the roll-out, Mr. Skyler—who served as the mayor’s press secretary in 2003 when the city passed its initially contentious smoking ban—said he’s not worried. “I think a little bit of controversy isn’t a bad thing. It means people are talking about it. Time will show it’s a successful program.”

If it indeed is, Citi figures to have competitors for naming rights come 2019. “In a sense, it’ll be a good proxy for whether it’s successful or not,” Mr. Skyler said. “If it’s really successful, which I think it will be, you’ll have a competitive field [for naming rights] in six years.”