North America's largest bike share to come to NYC
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 18:06
In concert with MasterCard and Citibank, Alta Bicycle Shares will be launching Citi Bike, a 10,000-bike system that will distribute rentable cycles throughout the five boroughs. Citi Bike is set to launch in late July.
The Citi Bike system is geared towards riders who generally commute “three miles or less,” according to the Alta website. It will be North America's largest and most sophisticated bike share program, complete with 600 rental stations that will be placed all over the city. The stations are linked into GPS trackers and smart phone apps that direct would-be cyclists to the nearest stations with bike availability.
“The solar-powered, wireless docking stations will be located on sidewalks, curbside road space, plazas and other locations suggested through the community process,” according to Alta’s website. “Each station can accommodate between 15 and 60 bikes. The self-contained stations require no utility connections.”
The Public Bike System Company (PBSC) originally developed the technology for the New York system to use in Montreal’s share program in 2008. Now the company supplies Alta Share-owned systems throughout North America and one in Melbourne, Australia. According to Alta’s website, PBSC’s docking stations are “portable, wirelessly integrated and sturdy enough to handle the demands of New York’s urban environment.”
Rental of Citi Bikes will be possible via the touch-screen and traditional card-swipe method as well as MasterCard’s PayPass Tap & Go system, and is set up to be an affordable option for one-time, weekly and daily riders alike. For 24 hours of access to Citi Bikes anywhere in the city, the price is $9.95, and for a week it costs $25. An annual membership is $95, “less than the cost of a single monthly-unlimited Metro Card,” boasts Alta’s site.
There will also be an option for lower income residents to obtain annual memberships at a discounted price. The cost for those who meet the criteria will be $60 payable in quarterly installments. The program is still in development, but details are soon to be released as to qualifications. There will also be help for unbanked New Yorkers to attain low- or no-cost bank accounts with cards they can use to swipe for bike shares.
One downside of rental that may turn some away is the $101 hold that will be placed on accounts used to rent Citi Bikes. Another is – depending on how long you’ve bought into the share for – there are time limits on bike use.
For daily and weekly commuters, trips under 30 minutes are “free,” with longer trips incurring extra fees. For annual members, trips can be up to 45 minutes without incurring additional fees. The fees will also be less severe for annual members than for daily and weekly users.
The time limitations are set up so the bikes will be used primarily for commuting purposes, and they should serve to keep the racks fairly full at all times. As bikes shift throughout the city during the day, redistribution teams will respond to real time demand by transporting bikes from oversupplied areas to those of lower concentration.
The timing of the launch for the bike share could barely hope to be more perfect. Even as most industries in the U.S. suffer through the cuts, losses and other general fallouts of a recession that has followed the burst housing market bubble and the 2008 financial crisis, the biking industry is in a boom, especially in New York City.
Over the last four years alone, ridership has more than doubled in the five boroughs, bringing the number of cyclists who ride more than a few times a month, if not regularly, to roughly 500,000 according to a recent survey conducted by the Department of Health.
The Bloomberg administration suggests that the nearly 260 added miles of bike lane to the City’s roadways is the main proponent of heightened ridership, and claims it as a major victory in the campaign to ease traffic flow and promote green industries in the city.
Another boon for the biking industry has been the Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law, passed in 2009. This law mandates that office buildings with at least one freight elevator must provide either onsite or nearby bicycle parking.
Last winter, the New York Department of Transportation put this to task and made it possible for bikers to lock up at many City office buildings. Coupled with that effort is the installation of bike racks throughout the city that have added 26,000 lock up locations to street sides in recent years. This has been accomplished through the DOT’s project to repurpose non-functioning parking meters.
As the launch date for Citi Bike approaches, the New York bike scene is abuzz with commentary, and many that The Ticker spoke with were generally supportive of the program.
One Brooklyn bike shop owner who will have a bike share station located just around the corner from his business was enthusiastic. Jason Gallacher, founder and CEO of Affinity Cycles, a frame manufacturer and bike shop that has been central to the New York street scene through sponsorship of some of its best bike messengers, expressed support for the CitiBike program. The way he sees it, more people biking is going to create a higher demand for bikes no matter which way the wheel spins.