City Announces Nation's Largest Bike Share Program

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.)