New York to Get Bike Share

Monday, November 22, 2010


New York City is preparing to set up the largest bike share system in the nation. The city is issuing a request for proposals for one-way, short-term bike rentals, a system that has augmented the transportation network in dozens of European cities as well as in Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.

In a bike share system, riders can rent a bike at one location, like Union Square, and drop it off at another, for example the Lower East Side. Minneapolis, Denver and Washington DC all started bike shares programs this year. With greater density than any of those cities, New York believes it can make a profit on a bike share program.   

New York City's transportation commissioner wouldn't comment on the details of the request for proposals, which will be released Wednesday morning. But Janette Sadik-Khan frequently speaks at confererences promoting the idea of bike share.

“We’re ideal for it," Sadik-Khanhas said. "We have the density. We’re flat. Eighty one percent of people in the central business district of Manhattan don’t own a car. In this age of transit cuts, this is an ideal way to add to New York's transportation system."

The city is looking to set up a twenty-four hour network of around 10,000 bikes, with the entire bill footed by the private sector, but with the city sharing in any revenues. In other cities with bike shares, sponsorships and advertising help pay for the bikes. Earlier generations of bike share in many European cities required subsidies, but the city believes that with wireless technology, gps and solar-powered bike stations, a system in New York can be run far more efficiently.

"New York is made for bike share," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, a group that promotes biking and walking, "so this announcement is very exciting. The characteristics that make bicycling an everyday form of transportation, New York has in spades: density, flat terrain, temperate climate, lots of short trips and an on the go lifestyle. This nimble and inexpensive way to get around will fit easily into New Yorkers’ constantly shifting errands and schedules."

The city hopes for the system to be running in 2012. Boston is preparing to start a bike share program soon. Montreal was the first North American city to have bike share.


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Comments [26]

Phil from New York City

I have lived in Milan in the past and presently visit Milan, Italy often and have used the relatively new bike sharing service there, and I can say that the program is very successful and it has improved the civility of the city, how cars travel on urban roads, and provided a healthy transportation alternative. I believe the benefits hugely outweigh the risks (accidents, etc.) associated with this type of Green Movement approach. Looking forward to it in NYC.

Apr. 27 2011 05:57 PM
Joanne cox from Melbourne

Melbourne Australia already has a bike share program in place
You can buy helmets from convenience stores scattered everywhere around town open all hours for $5 and can return the helmets for a refund of $3.

Nov. 26 2010 05:11 PM
tom from Brooklyn

When the commissioner and Mr. White point to the density of NYC, what density is that? Yes, the city is compact and the general population is denser that anywhere else in America, but that does not translate into a goodly number biking. The League of American Bicyclists designates NYC with the lowest of four levels of cycling status reflecting the 1% bike share in all its trips. It's far from the levels in Minneapolis, Portland or D.C..

Nov. 26 2010 05:05 PM
DrDaveNYC from Manhattan

My wife was hit by a typical NYC cyclist and immediately required brain surgery. The accident was near fatal & the recovery took years. Her accident was far from atypical as she was slammed into at high speed while crossing a Central Park roadway at a green light. Her head hit the concrete curb and she blacked out with blood dripping from her open mouth. Had she not been minutes away from a Level 1 trauma hospital she would be a long forgotten statistic. Just another victim of a reckless NYC cyclist.

For all it's candy coated political correctness & college town nostalgic dreams, cycling in Manhattan's over-congested streets is dangerous & often out of control. Not the least of which it is unregulated, unenforced & totally uninsured. My wife's brain surgery alone cost $15,000 which was just the tip of the medical bills we faced.

NYC cyclists rarely use bike lanes, ride in any direction they please, yell at pedestrians to get out of the way and basically are on power trips with no regard for anyone. There is even an ever growing, non-gender specific, macho cyclist subculture that promotes bikes without brakes & gears...mimicking the urban warrior professional bike messengers from the 80s & 90s who didn't want their preferred Shimano parts stripped. People are shelling out thousands for these dangerous configurations in order to stand out and look the eyes of their fellow cyclists, of course. Their unwitting victims have a completely different viewpoint after impact.

So for all the idealism, egos and fanaticism behind this project it remains totally impractical for Manhattan. Yes it works in places like Paris or small towns like Boston & Denver where there are large swaths of open space. Manhattan is way too congested requiring vast endless fleets of motorized vehicles to supply it's enormous hunger and thirst that makes it ...Manhattan.

If anything, the wunderkinds of the Bloomberg administration should be real thinkers instead of trying to imitate others. NYC should partner with Google on a Shweeb monorail system that allows short distance cyclists to be above and away from the rest of us. That would be forward thinking instead of dragging us down into the gutter where more victims like my wife are guaranteed to wind up.

Nov. 24 2010 12:10 PM
olivier from brooklyn manhattan

that's a very good idea, but you must do a big big job on the bike line before

Nov. 23 2010 10:20 PM

It should be much more affordable. People on fixed incomes will never be able to afford this. It is a wonderful idea with the potential to improve health, safety, congestion, pollution, and social dynamics, but only if it is conceived of as a truly populist option, not just an elite fun time, like the pedicabs. Yes, the city is entitiled to make some money off of it, but who is going to want to pay that much money to ride a short distance? And the majority of the hardcore, long distance riders use their own bikes. The share bikes are ideal for a little sprint across town and the price should be geared to that and should be within reach of the majority, not the few.

Nov. 23 2010 06:08 PM

This can work - think about having the option to grab a bike when you get off the train/bus/subway, take it to a bike stand near your destination, walk a few blocks, and you're there. It's a very viable alternative to the subway, and is going to be much less expensive than cabs, and faster than buses. Don't get me started on driving/parking.

Helmets aren't necessary. With larger numbers of riders will come an even higher level of safety for everyone on the road. This has been proven over and over again.

Nov. 23 2010 05:32 PM
Rich from New York

I don't buy the excuses that cyclists must ignore traffic laws because there's no space for them on the street (or various iterations of this excuse, that "traffic is chaotic" therefor cyclists must break the law). It's just a self-serving, "we are victims" stance. I bike commute in NYC daily on the streets, and do so just fine without breaking any traffic laws. I control my lane when necessary. It's easy to avoid collisions at intersections when you stop at the red lights. Also, where do you get the idea that it's just a tiny minority of cyclists who flout traffic laws. What city are you observing? Riding against traffic is routine. So is riding without lights at night. Hardly any cyclists actually stop and stay stopped at red lights. I've had pedestrians remark to me how unusual it is to see a cyclist stopped at a red. That's hardly a sign that scofflaw cycling is something done by a small minority. Finally, you need to re-think the math. It's not just a 30 lb bike. It has a rider who weighs upwards of 150 lbs. And it can easily go way faster than 10 miles per hour. What do you think happens to a pedestrian when she's struck by 200 lbs of cyclist & bike, traveling the wrong way (while running through a red light) at an easily attainable 20 mph? Are you aware that a pedestrian was killed by a wrong way cyclist, whose bike lacked brakes this past May? Were you aware the the Department of Health Bicyclist Fatalities study identified 10 instances where pedestrians were killed by cyclists?

I'm all for the city doing more for cycling and equitable transportation, but we cyclists also need to clean up our act (and let's drop the whiny "we are victims" bike politics while we're at it; it's neither accurate, nor becoming, nor what being a cyclist is all about).

Nov. 23 2010 05:19 PM
Francois from Paris France

Paris has had velib bike share program for a few years and the system works fanatasticly. Here the only problem is the vandalism of the bikes has increased and JC Decaux who owns the system is responsible for all the repairs. For this I hope NYC will have a better model since the potential to develop a velib like program is probably better because of the grid system of NYC streets where in Paris riding a bike is a little more dangerous (i.e. many fast motorbikes and taxis!).

Nov. 23 2010 05:07 PM

While helmets are necessary, i'm not sure how a bike-share network should provide them. i wouldn't want to share a helmet with someone else both for hygienic reasons as well as safety reasons - i have no idea if someone using the helmet before me knocked it around. i think any system can encourage helmet use, but i'm not sure how they can provide them. Any ideas?

Nov. 23 2010 03:03 PM
Kathryn from Brooklyn

Helmets and lights (especially at this time of year) are necessary. Will they be provided. Most people do not carry either with them.

Will there be access in Brooklyn and the other outerboroughs? I could see being in the city and wishing to ride a bike home to Brook;yn where it could be dropped off.

Nov. 23 2010 01:16 PM
Jacques from Washingotn, DC

@Alex -- here in Washington, DC, the Capital Bikeshare system costs $75 for an annual membership (though I signed on during a $50 promotion), or $25 per month, as alternatives to the $5 day membership.

At $ for the year, if you use a bike once a week, you're down to less than $1.50 per use. Average twice a week, and you're down to $75 per use.

I was never a bike commuter, and don't own a bike, but in the two months that DC's system has been running, I've used it 22 times in 9 weeks, saving myself time and money each time, whether commuting home, meeting up with friends for happy hour (and the nice thing is you can ride to happy hour, and cab/subway home, without worrying about getting a bike home at the end of the night), or even getting to-from meetings on Capitol Hill from my downtown office.

Nov. 23 2010 12:16 PM

And where do riders the get helmets? That is the biggest problem with a bike share, inexperienced riders without safety equipment.

Nov. 23 2010 12:14 PM
FF from Queens

I am from Barcelona and we have this system. The system works perfect if the city decides to increase the number of bike lanes, just for bikes, no cars no pedestrians. This way is safety for everyone and there is NOT accidents to regret. In Barcelona the bike lanes cross the whole city.

If you are a member it cost around 30€ a month with unlimited rides. For security reasons you have to become a member otherwise you can't get the bike, otherwise, in a Mediterranean country the bikes would last less than a day!!!

I guess that Manhattan is the best place to have it; flat, parks and horrible traffic.

Just give a chance!!

Nov. 23 2010 11:59 AM
Carol D. from East Village

A Bike Share program for NYC is indeed very exciting! There are so many potential benefits -- reducing the number of cars, pollution, noise and offering low cost transportation. It also offers the benefit of healthy exercise and it can be helpful with the epidemic obesity problem in the U.S. Bike sharing may be new to NYC but the concept was introduced in Europe in the 1960s & 70s. You can read an article about the history and current programs in place under Bicycle Sharing System on Wikipedia: And yes, there should be protocol in place for bike riders 'rules & etiquette of the road'. Pedestrians vary in their vision, hearing and awareness to see or hear bikes coming toward them. I am both a walker and a bike rider. We NYers have always had to look out for Bike Messengers, but with increased numbers of bikes on our streets, it would be better to be proactive rather than reactive in regard to setting standards for safety and courtesy practices.

Oh & P.S. to Concerned UWS Parent of Young Children: the Nannies pushing the babes in the prams and carriages are courteous when sharing the sidewalk. It's the Mums wielding the strollers that bear an attitude problem or present a potential threat to pedestrians.

Nov. 23 2010 11:32 AM

I LOVE the bike lanes. It's too dangerous, but the lanes make it safer.

Nov. 23 2010 11:28 AM

To be honest this doesn't make much sense to me. If this will cost $5 a day or more then why not just take the train? It costs the same and is a much easier way of getting around. In fact buying a monthly pass may be cheaper than spending $5 a day renting a bike. If you spend the money to rent a bike every day for 5 out of 7 days of the week for one month, that should come out to around $100. Buying a monthly metrocard is only $85. Now if fare prices are hiked up again to like $4 one way then yeah this would be a cool idea, but even then save up your money for a couple weeks and buy your own bike.

Nov. 23 2010 11:24 AM
Concerned Parent from West Side

Dear Carol D. from the East Village, you may not like sharing the sidewalk with babies and their conveyance of choice, but at least you won't end up in the hospital with a cracked head due to their reckless, budding sense of entitlement.

Nov. 23 2010 10:22 AM
Jacob from Upper Manhattan

This is amazing news. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend that you do. It's incredibly useful and really simple. Ideally, head up to Montreal to try the best North American system, however it doesn't operate through the extremely cold and snowy winter there. DC also has a similar and successful system, which you can try out for $5/day. I highly recommend it. Check it out before trashing the system. This will vastly increase mobility in NYC.

Nov. 23 2010 10:18 AM

maybe this can be a start to a carless Manhatten.

Still don't understand why deliveries are allowed during the day.

we should model transportation off of more modern cities.
Congestion pricing is a start. Bike share, bike infrastructural, bike traffic laws are also important.

even better would be electric assist bicycles, scooters ect.

Nov. 23 2010 10:17 AM
Carol D. from East Village

Mothers of young children on the Upper West Side pose their own threat to pedestrians as they wield their baby strollers without regard for the people they share the sidewalk with. Their sense of entitlement and disregard for pedestrians of all ages sets a horrible example to the offspring they transport in the carriages -- conveying the message that 'no one else matters'.

Nov. 23 2010 09:46 AM

Very happy about this proposal. However it will be hard to achieve a penetration to make the difference. This solution is needed in places that are remote from the train stations. But I suspect the bicycle stations will be placed around the areas where the transportation options are plenty thus slightly defeating the purpose.

Nov. 23 2010 09:39 AM
APV from upper west side

Agree most certainly that Bikes, Pedestrians, and Cars need to be more mindful of each other.

However, somehow we have no problem with 5,000 pound cars zooming 50 MPH on our narrow streets, but are concerned about 30 lbs. bikes driving 10 MPH ?

My 10 year old is an active cyclist. We ride to sports practice, friends, as well as errands. A 3 mile ride is just as fast as taking a cab.

As a Society, we should do everything possible to encourage Bike use for commuting, errands, and as a replacement for cars within the City. People should try and view cyclists as a welcome relief from noisy, smelly, car traffic. Nearly every bike is one less car on the street.

We are currently in a transition stage where Bikes struggle to find a safe space on the street. Much of the silly behaviour one observes from a minority of cyclists is driven by having no-room-of-their-own. Eventually all three users of our streets (Pedestrians, Bikes, and Cars) will learn to smoothly interact with each other.

Until one has tried using the bike for everyday errands - please do not bash it. The positive externalities for society are tremendous.

Nov. 23 2010 09:29 AM
June Taylor from Manhattan

When I was a young person in Illinois, bikes were a way of life. BUT! We had to have a license plate purchased at the local police station. In order to get the license, the bike had to be inspected. Generator light, bell or horn, mirrors on both handle bars, reflector lights, brakes inspected.Here, where too many bikes are used for commercial purposes, there is no control over them. Too many do not use the bike lanes which cost tax payers a great deal of money. We pedestrian are at a loss where to stand where to stand to get across the street (look at 2nd Avenue and 7th Street. IF THE CITY IS SO DESPERATE FOR MONEY, LICENSE THE BIKES...ESPECAILLY THOSE USED FOR COMMERICAL PURPOSES. We pedestrians need protection! Maybe when there are deaths and serious injuries, the City will rethink this travesty.

Nov. 23 2010 09:20 AM
Harry from Brooklyn

Why is the deciding factor always whether or not the city can make a profit? How about breaking even? The bike share program in Oslo allows one to purchase a YEAR of rental for $13. An enticement like this might actually make a difference for NYC's clogged streets.

Nov. 23 2010 08:52 AM
Parent of Young Children from West Side

Frankly, this sounds like a nightmare unless the city also decided to license bicyclists and enforce road safety rules. My experience as a pedestrian is that most bicyclists do Not yield to foot traffic, do Not stop for red lights, do Not signal when turning nor do they even follow the traffic signals which are custom-made for them in bike lanes. At the least, NYC needs to put tags on every vehicle on the road, including bicycles, because of our density. I hope the bike share proposal includes the cost of policing 10,000 new road users and liability. . . . And do not even get me started on the number of bicyclists without helmets, safety vests or safety lights who love to dash across the lanes, weave between cars, and go the wrong way down streets.

Nov. 23 2010 07:51 AM

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