City Announces Nation's Largest Bike Share Program

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The city has chosen Alta Bike Share to run a 10,000-bike network of one-way, short-term rentals that it says will augment the transit system.

New York City transportation chief Janette Sadik-Khan made the announcement Wednesday, clearing the last major bureaucratic hurdle to be scaled before the launch of the program in summer 2012.

The system will cost members $100 a year, and the first 30 minutes of usage will be free. After that, member will pay fees to rent the bikes for up to two hours. 

Alta hasn’t said how much bikes will cost after that, but in Washington, D.C., users pay $1.50 for 30-60 minutes, $3.00 for up to 90 minutes, and $6.00 for every 90 minutes after that. There will also be daily and short-term memberships available.

Riders can check bikes out from any station, and return them to any of the 600 other docking stations. The system will be more far-reaching than some planners had initially envisioned, stretching from Manhattan below 79th Street to Bedford-Stuyvesant, with stations in Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, Park Slope, downtown Brooklyn and areas in between.

The location of bike docking stations is yet to be worked out, but Sadik-Khan promises the DOT — which has been subject to searing scrutiny for not seeking enough community input on bicycling issues — will get input from communities. Sadik-Khan says locations could include plazas, edges of parks, and parking garages.

The city's bike share is based on similar systems in Paris, Montreal and Mexico City — where biking has proved to be a popular way of getting around congested downtowns and allowing members to take bikes to get to locations not served by mass transit. 

(Photo: Alta Bicycle Share will run the city's bike share program/Kate Hinds/WNYC.)

Sadik-Khan and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been criticized for their aggressive backing of bike lanes and other biking infrastructure, but polls show a majority of New Yorkers approve the changes and the city says biking has increased 14 percent over last year. 

The bikes tend to be sturdy and have adjustable seats, lights, chain-guards and baskets to encourage tourists and business people who otherwise might take cabs. Helmets are not typically provided.

Washington, D.C., has had a system for about a year, and Boston launched last month.  Washington showed 70,000 daily members as of July, and 15,000 annual members.  Denver, Minneapolis, and Montreal also have bike-share networks.

(Photo: NYC DOT head Janette Sadik-Khan with David Byrne./Kate Hinds/WNYC.)


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Comments [12]

swetepi from Roosevelt Island, NYC

I am seeking a link to vote to have a station on Roosevelt Island. Can you please send a link to me?

Sep. 25 2011 12:02 PM
Charles Theofan

As the City Manager of the City of Long Beach, I'm please to say that having entered into a contract with Deco Bikes of Miami several months we are the first city in the greater metropolitan area to embrace this wonderful concept.

Hopefully we'll see you all on the boardwalk.

Sep. 15 2011 03:16 PM
Audrey Tumbarello from Park Slope

What is planned for the use of helmets? Most people don't keep one tucked in their backpack. This is a safety issue which I have not heard addressed.

Sep. 15 2011 12:58 PM
tharun from Midtown,NY

We need this in Queens, Brooklyn, where between major subway stations. I think this may cause more worries to pedestrians in Midtown!

Sep. 15 2011 12:48 PM
bikessss from qns

@jawbone - not sure why this isnt a system that poorer people can take part in. Yes the initial areas covered are richer neighborhoods, but poor people travel within them. The system is much cheaper than taking a train and if you could substitute a subway ride + bike ride for a car trip much money will also be saved.

The city should also focus heavily on the outer boroughs (eg east new york and jamaica) where MTA ends and bikes could be extremely useful withing those areas.

Sep. 15 2011 12:10 PM
a cyclist from Prospect

Jawbone, I agree with your assesment about the target group for this service, which I honestly think isn't that bad for an initial aim in order to expand the infrastructure... besides, if you can't afford the yearly membership fees you can always purchase a bike for the same price or less :D

Sep. 15 2011 11:12 AM
SKV from NYC

For $100+ I'd like to not have to ride around advertising Barclay's...

Sep. 15 2011 10:29 AM
Jacques from Washington, DC


Based on the experience in DC, the key to longer trips is you can take an unlimited number of <30 minute trips, and once docking a bike, you can wait 15 seconds and take another bike from the docking station.

This way, it's easy to daisy-chain multiple bike rides for your trip without paying a usage fee. Or if you find that inconvenient, you can always pay the fee instead (probably less than a subway fare for the first half-hour).

Sep. 15 2011 08:33 AM

The reporter on this just made an error in saying the bike service would cost $100 a month with the first half hour free.

The copy says it's $100 a year.

But, either way, this is not a plan aimed at the poor or unemployed. Nor is it aimed at people above the Upper West, how can that be?

NYC, or just Manhattan, is large enough that, if observing traffic laws, only very short trips could be accomplished for free.

Shank's mare time for those not having the money to join and pay and pay and pay.

Sep. 14 2011 05:03 PM
Laura Norwitz from Washington Heights

I love the idea, but I wouldn't bike in the city without wearing a helmet. Any ideas?

Sep. 14 2011 05:01 PM
Peter Engel from New York, NY

I was just at the Alta announcement and took one of the bikes out for a spin. I'm very impressed. This program has worked in Boston, Montreal, Chicago, DC and other cities.

If NYC can embrace the Zipcar concept, the same can happen with bike-sharing.

Sep. 14 2011 02:15 PM
Magali Regis from New York NY

Great idea and it's about time! Where will the 600 docking stations be located? Will there be a website listing them? Hopefully, transportation specialists, community boards, bicycle riders are being consulted to help figure out the best locations. It is specially important to have the docking stations in areas with no mass transit and there should be bike lanes along the routes connecting the docking stations. Also, an option which does not oblige people to become members (paying $100 upfront to use the system) will allow for more spontaneous use.

Sep. 14 2011 01:14 PM

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