NYC transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spoke with WNYC's Richard Hake this morning about the city's plans to operate a bike share program. (The RFP can be found here.) You can listen to the interview here; the transcript is below.
Richard Hake: New York City today takes the first step toward launching the largest bike-share program in the country. New Yorkers will be able to rent bikes one-way for short term rides all over Manhattan. The idea is that the program will be entirely privately run, but the city will share the revenues. Joining us now is the city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.
Tell me how this program would work. If I get off work today, I'm here on Varick Street and I want to take a bike up to Union Square, would that be possible?
Janette Sadik-Khan: The system would be similar to the bike share format we've seen in Paris and London and Washington where heavy-duty bikes would be located at docking stations every few blocks throughout the system, and they can be ridden and dropped off at any other docking station in the system. So we're asking for companies to come in and give us their ideas where the best place would be to site a bike share system.
RH: So where would these docking stations be? Would they be in major sections like Union Square? Would there be one in Times Square? Have you investigated how that would work?
JSK: Well, the RFP does not specify the number of bicycles or the precise geographic area to be covered. But we do have preliminary research that says south of 60th Street in Manhattan in the central business district would be an ideal match for New York's geography because we've got high density and a growing bike infrastructure there.
RH: Now are you looking at this more for tourists, for people who just want to leisurely go around the city or could this be done for people who want to go to work and get some errands done?
JSK: We expect it to serve bothgroups. Bike share would give New Yorkers many more transportation choices as the city's population continues to grow and as traffic congestion increases. And it would be privately funded, so taxpayers will not be on the hook for coming up with dollars to support this, but they would share in any profits. And we think this is really the best deal in town for on-demand travel and a nice complement to our transit system.
RH: So when you say privately run, does that mean, there would be different companies or maybe one large company would actually purchase the bikes, maintain those bikes and actually rent the bikes out to people that want them?
JSK: Yes, the RFP specifies that a private company would bear all the costs and responsibilities with the system during the initial five-year period while sharing revenues with the city. No taxpayer funds would be used for the system's implementation or for the upkeep or for the maintenance of it. And in fact, we expect significant revenues from user fees and sponsorship and we will negotiate a city share of that revenue.
RH: One of the big problems of riding a bike in New York City is actually where to put it and the risk of theft. Now I know you've investigated the other programs going on in Europe and the other cities in the U.S. What have they been doing with the risk of theft of the bicycles?
JSK: Modern systems are much more sophisticated than they used to be. And security and technology on bike systems has really improved significantly. Theft and vandalism hasn't occurred in places like London. I think something like five bikes have been stolen because the contractor failed to lock them properly. Even judging Paris as it applies to New York, in 2008, Paris' larceny and theft rate was more than four times that of New York and more than double that of Boston and Washington, D.C. And overall property crime such as theft and vandalism is much more frequent in France than in the United States.
RH: I know since you've become the Transportation Commissioner, we've seen lots and lots of new bike lanes all over New York City. Are there enough bike lanes now for this program to be actually safe?
JSK: We've built on an extensive system in line with Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative. The idea is we're not going to be able to battle traffic congestion and continue to grow and thrive unless we provide New Yorkers with some more options. What we're looking to do is build on the safety record we've got here. New York city cycling is getting safer as more people are riding bikes and the network expands. Cycling has more than doubled from 2006 to 2010. But at the same time, cycling injuries and injuries to all users, where we've put down bike lanes, has gone down from 40 to 50 percent.
RH: Janette Sadik-Khan is the city's transportation commissioner. Commissioner, thanks so much for joining us.
JSK: Thanks, Richard.