n a humid August afternoon in 2011, a small group of government executives gathered around the desk of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to seek his approval for New York’s first bike-share program.
Former Department of Transportation Secretary Janette Sadik-Khan helped lead the pitch. According to Sadik-Khan, Bloomberg wasn’t exactly an easy sell, but the Mayor’s mood brightened when he heard the program would be privately operated at zero cost to taxpayers. All the City Hall team had to do was secure a sponsor that could make an eight-figure investment, and one that shared the city’s pedigree. “You don’t want a grocery store logo up there,” Sadik-Khan told me. “This is New York. We needed a brand that matched ours.” Nike and Apple were approached, but to no avail.
Edward Skyler is Citibank’s EVP of Global Public Affairs. Before his current role, he served as deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration. Shortly after Skyler arrived at Citibank, Sadik-Khan reached out regarding the bike-share program. Skyler made it clear he was willing to entertain the idea, but he would have to be convinced. Fortunately, there was already a similar program in London, sponsored by Barclays, which provided key learnings. Moreover, there was undeniable serendipity in the name Citi Bike. After all, it was just two letters away from Citibank. Six thousand bike frames could be a lovely canvas for the company’s Pantone 286C blue.
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