NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City transportation officials held a media test run Sunday for the city’s long-awaited bike-sharing program – the biggest in the country.
More than 9,000 people who have signed up for bike-sharing will be able to ride on May 27 — Memorial Day, when streets are quieter. The program will open to anyone starting June 2.
Riders with a $95 annual membership get an unlimited number of rides for 45 minutes at a time, and don’t have to return bikes to the same kiosk. Any rider 16 or older may unlock a bike using a credit or debit card, at $9.95 for 24 hours of unlimited rides lasting 30 minutes each. A seven-day pass costs $25.
Six thousand sturdy, blue three-gear bikes will be locked up after each use at 330 locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. If the plan works well, the program is eventually to expand to 10,000 bikes and 600 docking stations that will also include Queens.
Use of helmets is recommended but not required.
“I haven’t biked since I was 13, and I was avoiding buying a bike, so this is a really good opportunity to find out how it’ll go,” said Jessica Sheridan, 36, an architect who lives on the Upper West Side and is a bike-sharing program member.
“Plus, I wanted to support a program like this because New York is too congested, and the car culture isn’t good for the city,” she said as she sat in a car Sunday, passing by the test site: a docking station with a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline from nearly traffic-free Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Sheridan said she is concerned about cycling in traffic-congested midtown Manhattan. Despite the city’s 700 miles of bike lanes, bikers still have to contend with unruly drivers and jay-walking pedestrians. Sheridan said she’ll likely start out in Central Park, and in Brooklyn.
In New York City, there were 369 severe injuries for bicyclists reported in 2011, with 22 fatalities, according to city data.
According to the Department of Transportation, the bike share program will create 170 jobs and generate $36 million in yearly local economic activity.
But the program is not without its vocal opponents. Some have blasted the city’s decision to install bike stations on landmark blocks, while others have griped about the loss of parking spots.
Some street vendors also oppose the program, arguing the bike docking stations have overtaken some of their turf.
Drivers have claimed their cars were improperly towed because of construction of the bike docks.
A handful of lawsuits have already been filed against the bike share program, as well.
But supporters say sharing bikes allows people to move easily around the city without worries about theft, or having to bring a bike back, since it can be left at any docking station.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said biking decreases the number of drivers on the road and encourages a healthy lifestyle. The city expects the system to turn a profit, to be split between the city and the operator.
The DOT is overseeing the launch of the program, dubbed Citi Bike, and privately funded with a $41 million sponsorship from Citibank and an additional $6.5 million from MasterCard.
Citi Bike is run by Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share through a subsidiary called NYC Bike Share LLC, based in Brooklyn.
Dani Simons, director of marketing for NYC Bike Share, said the bikes are ideal for the city.
“They’re robust bikes with amazing anti-theft technology and they’re great for urban riding,” she said, pointing to the wide tires she said were “great for riding over all sorts of road conditions, with fenders for rain.”
It took nearly two years and 400 community meetings to pick locations for the kiosks.
The world’s largest public bike-sharing system is in Hangzhou, China, where it’s estimated there are 69,500 bikes and close to 3,000 docking stations. Successful bike sharing programs also have been set up in London, Paris and Washington.
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