Like it or not, bike share is coming to New York City. The announcement of the long anticipated program came on Wednesday, when New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan confirmed the City had entered a private-public partnership with Alta Bicycle Share, the same vendor responsible for Bixi and Capital Bike Share. During the press conference, Sadik-Khan told reporters that the initial phase of the program would consist of about 600 bicycle stations and 10,000 bikes stretching from below 79th Street in Manhattan through much of northwest Brooklyn. DOT and Alta employees working at the demo following the announcement toted yearly memberships of under $100, with stations every 3-4 blocks, making the program exceedingly convenient for users. High density of station is the most crucial factor to the success of any bike share program. Convenience for short commuting trips, and ease in finding and returning bikes is what makes the program work.
Alta Bicycle Share Demonstration in the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.
Blogs and news outlets around the City have been reporting that New Yorkers are generally pleased, if not ecstatic at the idea of bike share coming to New York. DOT and Alta are promising jobs for New Yorkers and a healthy, green and inexpensive way to travel. Many in New York, particularly those who have used bike share in London, Paris, Washington DC, or Montreal, shared the sentiments of Dan Cantor, leader of the Working Families Party when he said, “What took so long?”
However, change never comes without some resistance, and New Yorkers really know how to pushback. Doubts and concerns range from safety, to cost to the taxpayers, to real estate. Despite a lot of public support, DOT and Alta may face an uphill battle when dealing with many New Yorkers, NIMBYism and members of the press. During the press conference Sadik-Khan tried to briefly address some of the major concerns people may have about the program. She was very clear about the fact that tax payers will not incur any cost because of this program. The City contract with Alta states that the system must operate without any public subsidy – DOT’s role will be strictly oversight. Alta is assuming all of the risk, and expecting to turn a profit from user fees and sponsorship in return. “Rules of the Road” will also be provided on station kiosks in order to get users to ride safer. Helmet coupons will also be provided with purchase of membership so users can get quality safety gear at a marginal cost. Maybe most importantly, DOT has also announced an extensive public outreach campaign that will include workshops and collaboration with residents, community boards and civic leaders to assist in choosing location for bike station. “We really want your help in planning the system,” Sadik-Khan said towards the end of the announcement. And you can start by going to the DOT bike share website and dropping pins where you’d like to see stations: suggest a station
Whatever your opinion on the City’s bicycle program and growing bike infrastructure, no one can deny the benefit of an increase in transportation options for New Yorkers, particularly with the ever increasing cost of public transit and the traffic congestion at rush hour. What do you think about bike share in New York City?
NYC Bike Share will launch in the late spring, early summer 2012. For more information, demonstration dates and locations and FAQ’s about bike share, please visit http://a841-tfpweb.nyc.gov/bikeshare/