Another win for NYC bicyclists. The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) has finally decided to emulate european bike sharing programs like the Velib system in Paris. A press release announced that DOT will be accepting plans from private companies to make cycling more convenient and accessible to a large number of New Yorkers. According to the Request for Proposals (RFP), the company will absorb all costs associated with the bike share program, at no expense to taxpayers, and will share the profits with the city during an initial five year period. A system could be in place as early as Spring of 2012 and will feature bike-share stations every few blocks for users’ convenience. Additionally, the latest bicycle technology, such as GPS equipped bicycles and solar-powered stations will be used throughout the project. The RFP is calling for approximately 10,000 bicycles and 600 stations to be distributed throughout the boroughs.
The program will most likely operate on a membership system, and customers will be able to pay daily, weekly, monthly, or annual fees. In Washington D.C., it costs approximately $75 for an annual membership, and we can expect a similar cost structure in NY. The service stations will be placed every few blocks to provide maximum coverage across the boroughs and will be consistent with the city’s growing bicycle network. The larger question is how the DOT will make room for these stations. They may attempt to take up space on the already crowded sidewalks or eliminate more parking spaces. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Robert K. Steel, explained, “A bike sharing program would provide New Yorkers with another transportation option while reducing traffic.” Eliminating parking spaces will reduce the amount of traffic coming into the city although this will undoubtedly cause some controversy. Nonetheless, the bike share program is a great step in the right direction for the city and its residents.