UPDATED: New York City Chooses Alta for Wide-Ranging Bike Share

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What a bike share station might look like in NYC (image courtesy of NYC DOT)

New York City has chosen Alta Bicycle Share, which runs systems in Washington, DC, Boston, and Melbourne, Australia, to run its bike share program, officials say.

With 10,000 bikes, the New York system will be the largest system in the world, save for Paris, with 28,000 bikes, and some systems in China. It will also be the first U.S. city to run without government subsidies. Alta Bicycle Share, which says it will raise a $50 million investment from private sponsors and will assume all the financial risk of running New York's system. It will share any revenue it earns with New York. The city estimates the plan will create 200 jobs.

New York's 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 system will cost $100 a year to join, and members will be able to use bikes for the first 30 minutes of a trip for free. Alta hasn't said how much bikes will cost after that, but in Washington, 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.

In Washington, some 70,000 casual or daily members had signed up as of July, compared to about 15,000 annual users. (Excellent website with DC data here.)

In a time when most transit systems are facing big cuts, NYC transportation chief Janette Sadik-Khan says bike share will fill in the gaps. "There are times when you can't find a cab, or you can't find the bus, or the subway is not going to work. So it's perfect for those short trips from point A to point B." The NYC DOT says 54 percent of all trips by New Yorkers are under two miles.

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 did not mention sidewalks or car parking spaces, both both have been used in other cities.

"The adage with bike share is go big or go home," said Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White. "You really need to reach a critical level of station coverage and saturation so that it becomes an easy transport option. It doesn't work if the station's aren't three blocks or closer."


The city has launched a website to solicit suggestions for bike share stations; it's already of sea of flags.

Alison Cohen, President of Alta Bike Share, is moving to New York to shepherd what will no doubt be a furious year for the company.    "There are two things New Yorkers love to talk about, real estate, and how to get from point A to point B."

"Boy does she understand us," commented councilmember Gail Brewer of the Upper West Side.

Sadik-Khan says she's not worried about theft, with the exception of Paris' Velib, which had problems early on with its locking system. "That was bike share 1.0," she said.

Nor does Sadik-Khan seemed to be particularly concerned about cyclists breaking traffic laws, referring to her "Don't Be A Jerk" campaign and other outreach efforts. She also noted that bike share users will be encouraged to carry helmets, but none will be available for rental.

Transportation Nation first broke the New York bike share story last November.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan have taken some heat over their forceful backing of bike lanes, but the Mayor has received a PR boost of late.

See lots of photos here.

Here's the promotional video from the NYC DOT.