Frustrated with your morning commute? Soon there will be a green alternative to the subway system. Mayor Bloomberg and Alta Bicycle Share are working together to start the New York Bike Share, a program that plans to revolutionize the daily commute.
Set to make its debut in Summer 2012 the New York Bike Share is a project that is both convenient and green. The program’s goal is to make navigating the city easier by connecting transit systems via bicycle. “It’s not meant to be a bike tour rental,” said one spokesperson at a demonstration today, “It’s for commuter connections and running errands.”
When it hits New York streets next year the program will include 600 bike docking stations and 10,000 bikes. Bikes can only be taken out for 30 or 45 minutes at a time. Additional fees are charged for longer rides. Program members that register online for monthly or annual memberships have unlimited access to the bikes 24 hours a day. Casual memberships can be purchased at a kiosk at the bike dock and last 24 hours. The pricing structure is still TBD but the program estimates that the annual membership fee will be less than $100 and 24-hour purchases will be less than $10.
On paper the program looks to revolutionize the NYC commute while reducing pollution, but the rental system is not without its critics. A similar program, Vélib’, was implemented in Paris to disastrous results. Of Vélib’s initial 20,600 bikes, 80% were stolen or damaged. With system start up and maintenance costs included each bike cost roughly $3,500. In addition to the fears of financial loss, many opponents of the system question whether the city will find space to dock 10,000 bikes on the congested city sidewalks. Others wonder if the city streets are bike-friendly enough for this program or if it is a danger to pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists alike.
Alta Bicycle Share ensures skeptics that they have every base covered. At this point in the planning bikes can only be taken out on a credit or debit card, on which a hold is placed in the amount of a security deposit that is TBD. This, according to an Alta spokesperson, cuts out the risk of theft. Furthermore, the bikes parts are “virtuously worthless” according to the same spokesperson. The bikes must be dismantled by special tools and their parts are exclusive to Alta’s bicycles.
To quell safety concerns “bike share bikes are built for stability rather than speed,” according to the Alta website. The bikes are heavy and solid with a three-gear shift range. Additionally, Alta maintains that the city is getting safer for bicycles. According to the Alta website NYC has added over 250 miles of bike lanes since 2006 and an overall 75 percent decrease in bicycle fatalities since 2000.
Hoping for a bike dock in your neighborhood? The program will have locations from 79th street and below as well as locations around Brooklyn. The NYC Bike Share has enlisted the public to help plan the docks’ locations. On the interactive station map cycling enthusiasts can suggest locations for the docks. The map is a scatter plot of blue dots that are so thickly placed it is hard to see the map in places. The most heavily requested areas are in between Midtown and Brooklyn. Specific areas that are most popular are Prospect Park, NoHo and the Bowery area, with up to 2,000 station requests in these locations.
To find out more about the program and take a test ride see the demonstrations that are happening city wide over the coming weeks. A full list of locations and times is available on the NYC Bike Share website.
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