Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
It's official. New York's much anticipated bike share program will not launch this month as originally planned. Although on Monday afternoon the NYC Department of Transportation website still declared a July launch to what will become the nation's largest bike share program, the agency confirms the program will not begin until at least August.
“We’re working on the launch plan and will update the public as soon as we finalize all the details,” Seth Solomonow, NYC DOT spokesman tells Transportation Nation in an email.
This isn't the first time the DOT has cited a date after July, but it is the first time they have confirmed there would not be some kind of launch in July for the membership-based public bike rental system.
As Transportation Nation reported in May, the DOT did acknowledge, though quietly, that the program would roll out over the course of months, not all at once. In our previous story we wrote:
“It’s going to be a phased deployment,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said at the announcement. “I mean we can’t just airdrop 10,000 bikes in. So it will be between August and the spring of 2013 that we will have the full system.”
News of an August launch began to circulate after StreetsBlog noticed the official CitiBike Twitter feed referring to an August launch, something neither the DOT nor Alta Bicycle Share, the company tapped to run CitiBike, would confirm.
Other official online references to a launch date are similarly imprecise. The best guess, though: you can sign up for a membership starting next month and some neighborhoods may start to get bikes as early as, but possibly later than, August. (Here is one of several tweets to that effect.)
Meanwhile the CitiBike website said "Summer 2012" as of Monday afternoon. That's an amendment to an earlier version of the paragraph pictured that had said July was the month.
And then it gets more muddled with several CitiBike tweets that say both July AND August.
In fact, a launch that spans different months is likely, though, as DOT confirms, those months are not going to include July.
So, if you are expecting to sign up for one of the first memberships, plan on doing that in August (but maybe July, but probably not) and then hoping your neighborhood gets bikes first. It's fairly certain piecing together the various hints online and in past statements that many neighborhoods will not have bike share in July, and probably not in August either.
The agency hasn't said which neighborhoods will get bikes first if there is some sort of very small launch at the end of July, though it has released a map of the 420 locations in the first year of the program. The initial base of operations for the company will be the Brooklyn Navy Yard, so that could be a convenient area to test. Or maybe the Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan will want CitiBikes close to home and set up the very first stations around City Hall. That area has one of the highest rates of bike commuting in the city as it is.
As for why the date is later than the original July projection, see this story about the delay in firming up the $41 million main sponsor, which pushed back the order of some of the bikes. Unlike in other cities, such as Washington, D.C., the New York bike share program is not receiving any taxpayer money. It will be the largest in the U.S. when fully operational. Riders will be able to check out a bike at one location for up to 30 minutes and drop the bikes off at another location after paying a membership fee, which could be daily, monthly or yearly.