NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -New Yorkers now have another way to get around the city.
New York City’s controversial bike share program rolled out on Monday for roughly 15,000 annual members who will have one week of exclusive access before daily and weekly memberships start on June 2.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan officially launched the program at a docking station near the Brooklyn Bridge.
“The Citi Bike program is a big win for New York, and it’s already the largest bike share system in the nation,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “It’s going to give New Yorkers another way to get around town by extending connectivity from subway and bus stops.”
“Citi Bike isn’t just a bike network, it’s New York City’s first new public transit system in more than 75 years,” said Sadik-Khan. “Bikes are convenient, safe and affordable transit for growing numbers of New Yorkers and Citi Bike will change how we get around the city for years to come.”
Thousands of people have signed up as Citi Bike founding members, paying the $95 annual fee for unlimited rides of 45 minutes.
“I signed up in the first hour,” midtown resident Jeff Jenkins told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “If it’s raining in the morning I can take the subway in but then if it clears up I get to bike home.”
Others in Union Square were eager to take the new bikes for a ride.
“They feel pretty good,” rider John Arnold told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith shortly after taking his maiden voyage on the shiny blue bike. “Been hearing about it for years, so I wanted to get out on them. Wanted to sign up early and get out and try them out.”
“It’s pretty cool! I woke up this morning hoping and decided late this morning, but it’s cool,” anther rider named Russ told Smith. “The bikes seem a little clunky but I think just get used to them.”
Daily memberships will be available for $9.95 a day or $25 a week, which entitles riders to an unlimited number of 30-minute trips.
“This is really more designed in getting from Place A to Place B in 30 minutes,” Bloomberg said.
Citi Bike’s 6,000 specially designed bikes are docked at roughly 330 stations in Manhattan below Central Park and in parts of Brooklyn.
Polls show huge support for the general concept of a bike share program and similar shares have rolled out in other cities with few problems, but it’s hardly been a smooth ride for the long-awaited and highly-anticipated program.
“In Petrosino Park, they’ve taken over one-third of the park for a purely commercial application, which could be simply moved across the street. There’s plenty of room on Lafayette Street going downtown, it’s a very under-utilized street,” SoHo resident Carl Rosenstein told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller.
The co-op board at The Cambridge in Greenwich Village is furious and suing the city after a 92-year-old resident needed an ambulance and the emergency vehicle couldn’t access the front door.
“It was only after we had such a terrible tragedy that they decided okay they would remove 15 feet,” Greenwich Village resident Erick Berg told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “I think the implementation of the bike share program in New York City has a lot to be desired.”
Some city drivers have complained that they’ve been improperly ticketed when the docking stations were put in place without warning. And some street vendors said they fear the program will cut into their territory.
There is also the question of safety; helmets are encouraged, but not required.
Experience isn’t required either. Bikers and drivers alike admit they’re nervous with a sudden influx of novice riders on unfamiliar equipment, Brown reported.
“I’m a little afraid of the city traffic but I know I’m definitely going to use the Hudson River Parkway,” said Chelsea resident Madalyn Margoles.
Bloomberg is urging cyclists to use caution.
“Don’t ride your bike on the sidewalk — it’s against the law– use bicycle lanes when they exist and exercise from common sense,” Bloomberg said.
Despite the criticism, Department of Transportation officials have touted the bike share program as a way to go green and provide an opportunity to explore the city on two wheels.
According to the DOT, the bike share program will create 170 jobs and generate $36 million in yearly local economic activity.
Officials are hoping to expand the program to 10,000 bikes at 600 stations across the city.
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