Sadik-Khan Announces a Bike-Share Program That’s Big Enough to Succeed

Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announces the selection of Alta Bike Share to operate NYC's bike-share system. Standing to the left is Working Families Party director Dan Cantor. To the right are council members Gale Brewer and Brad Lander, and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson. Photo: Noah Kazis

Addressing a plaza full of reporters at Madison Square this afternoon, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced that the city is entering the next phase of its initiative to launch a public bike system stretching from the Upper West Side to Bedford Stuyvesant. The system will be run by Alta Bike Share and consist of about 600 stations with 10,000 bicycles, creating a network of comparable size and density to bike-share systems in cities like London and Paris.

Station density is perhaps the single greatest key to success in a modern bike-share system. The less searching you have to do for a station, and the closer you are to your destination when you dock your bike, the better. As Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told Streetfilms earlier this year, the underlying principle is “go big or go home.” With this announcement, NYC DOT and Alta have clearly signaled that they are going big. Once bike-share launches, it will change the way New Yorkers get around the city, extending the range of the transit system and adding point-to-point convenience for short trips.

Sadik-Khan said the selection of the bike-share operator also marks the beginning of an extensive public outreach campaign, which will seek ideas from local residents, community boards, and civic leaders to determine where bike-share stations should go. “This is just the start,” she said. “We really want your help in planning the system.” Public workshops will be held throughout the fall, and the bike-share system is on track to launch in 2012, potentially by the summer.

Leaders from NYC’s business community and progressive political landscape hailed the bike-share program as a way to give New Yorkers more transportation options and attract a skilled workforce. Both Kathy Wylde, the CEO of the city’s biggest business lobbying group, the Partnership for NYC, and Dan Cantor, leader of the labor-affiliated Working Families Party, were on hand to back the initiative. Wylde called bike-share “an important contribution to the next generation of what will make New York attractive to talent,” and Cantor said it is “one of those things that we’re going to look back at in a few years and say, ‘What took so long?'”

Asked specifically why cycling and bike-share is progressive, Cantor said: “This is so obvious. This is good for human beings. It’s good for the planet. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions. It burns calories. It makes you a happy person when you ride a bike.”

Three City Council members who represent districts within the bike-share service area also endorsed the plan: Gale Brewer, Brad Lander, and Tish James. The precise borders of the service area have yet to be finalized, but its general contours will run from the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side to Bed Stuy and Greenpoint. The city is considering ways to expand service to other areas after the first phase of the system is up and running, said Sadik-Khan.

Council Member Tish James, trailed by Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, tries out a bike made by the Public Bike System Company, which will supply NYC. Photo: Ben Fried

One of the defining aspects of the contract is that the system must operate without public subsidy. Alta is assuming all the financial risk of running the system, which is projected to cost about $50 million per year to operate. They expect to turn a profit, a portion of which will be shared with the city. Some revenue will come from memberships, which will be priced at less than $100 for an annual pass and give users access to an unlimited number of trips under 30 minutes, after which additional fees kick in. Daily, weekly and monthly passes will also be available (specific prices have not yet been set, but you can read about the general structure of how membership will work).

Another major source of revenue will be corporate sponsorship, and Alta is now seeking a single sponsor whose brand will go everywhere the bike-share system goes — 600 kiosks and 10,000 bikes.

Judging by the Q&A after the presser, NYC’s bike-share plans will face an uphill battle in the media. A good chunk of NYC’s press corps seems to think the bike-share story is about what might happen once people who don’t normally ride in New York are using public bikes. Will they wear helmets? Will they follow the rules of the road? (Experience in other cities suggests that bike-share users are safer on the streets than cyclists riding their own bikes.) As for providing a new transit option and overcoming the barriers to bike riding posed by theft and walk-up apartments without much storage space — don’t count on a wave of coverage about that.

We’re at the very beginning of the process to bring a world-class public bike system to NYC. This fall will come dozens of public workshops to discuss where hundreds of stations should go. The NIMBYs are already staking out their position, and the press corps is as hungry for conflict as ever. If you want bike-share in NYC to be as good as it should be, get ready to make your case.

Noah Kazis contributed reporting to this post.

  • Hooray! No helmets in this photo! Cycling is safe.

  • Hooray! No helmets in this photo! Cycling is safe.

  • Glenn

    This will not only revolutionize NYC biking, but I expect I will lose a little weight in the process!

  • Anonymous

    Pity Amtrak doesn’t have the clout to be the single sponsor. That’d be a win-win relationship.  I’m going to bank on it being a bank.

  • oinonio, if someone like Goldman sponsors this, I guarantee there will be vandalism. They need to get a company people dont hate. New Balance was a good choice for Boston. 

  • oinonio, if someone like Goldman sponsors this, I guarantee there will be vandalism. They need to get a company people dont hate. New Balance was a good choice for Boston. 

  • Streetsman

    Maybe they should have their insurance provider sponsor it cause that could save them a bundle 🙂

  • Yankees for Bike Share Sponsor

    Here’s a nomination for Yankees and Mets as bike share sponsors. They can kick back some of the loot they took from tax payers for their stadiums and parking garages. Or A-Rod by himself can be the sponsor. NYC Bike Share powered by A-Rod.

  • “He added that no stations should be place in Soho,” said Sean Sweeney of the Soho Alliance. http://j.mp/nWbNZt

    How does one respond to this?
    So you don’t want your neighborhood to take advantage of a no-pollution, low-cost transportation mode? You don’t want to supplement the busy subway system?

  • Todd Scott

    Are there any estimates on NYC’s station density?

  • Amtrak treats bicycles as a security risk, rather than as a way to make train travel easier.

    Is it necessarily going to be one sponsor, or can multiple sponsors split the funding?

  • Tom Menino

    So now that Alta has the franchise in Boston, New York, and Washington, how long before they offer a NEC membership that would allow access to all three systems with one key (maybe Montreal too)? As a Hubway member, I’d be willing to pay a little (but not a lot) extra for access to all of their networks.

  • Pbsinnyc

    A bike sharing program SHOULD NOT be launched in NYC within the current time schedule set by NYCDOT, I cannot stress this enough!  I wish I could explain why, but I can’t right now.  Launching a bike sharing program in NYC next year will significantly set back NYC’s livable city/streets movement.  I know it sounds absurd, but I am being dead serious.

    For the past 3 years I have sacrificed everything to work solely on a plan that I believe will make cities, such as NYC, more livable in a way never done before.  This plan will include information that will prove my claim.  I didn’t spend the past 3 years of my life on this plan to be wrong.  This plan is a feasible plan that can be implemented in a relatively short period of time.  When I reveal this plan, I hope all who doubt my claim will eventually believe in me and understand why I had to keep silent all of these years.

    Even though NYCDOT has selected a vendor for the bike sharing program and is committed to launching the bike sharing program next year, I will do whatever I can to minimize the major set back NYCDOT is about create for NYC’s livable city/streets movement because I really want what is best for the people.  I’m on a mission and I will see this through to the end, 300 style (hopefully with a different ending).  

  • Mike

    Pbsinnyc: “This is terrible, I can’t tell you why, but you should trust me because I’m a random anonymous Internet commenter.”

  • J

    @bcc7e312e045f2264e252c591e7af1de:disqus I think they are already looking into a NEC pass, and it would make a lot of sense. We’re living in the future!

  • When this idea was first raised years ago, I was skeptical. Now, every time I go to Washington, I see plenty of these bikes in use. Given that DC is still has a higher crime rate than NYC, I’m hoping that if they can survive in DC, they can work here. My only worry here is the fight over real estate. Every inch of sidewalk and curb space is fought over so brutally (think pedestrians vs. store displays vs. street vendors vs. food carts vs. hawkers vs. newsracks and so on, and as for parking spaces…). 

    Of course, I’ll sign up as soon as I can. Question for other potential users: if the purpose of this is to encourage more spontaneous biking (you don’t need to worry about parking, maintenance, etc.) does that mean you’ll bring a bike helmet with you everywhere? Or will you go without? If you don’t regularly wear one, this is no big deal, but if you wear one religiously (like me), it’s an issue, even if I’m riding just for a short hop. Thoughts?

  • When this idea was first raised years ago, I was skeptical. Now, every time I go to Washington, I see plenty of these bikes in use. Given that DC is still has a higher crime rate than NYC, I’m hoping that if they can survive in DC, they can work here. My only worry here is the fight over real estate. Every inch of sidewalk and curb space is fought over so brutally (think pedestrians vs. store displays vs. street vendors vs. food carts vs. hawkers vs. newsracks and so on, and as for parking spaces…). 

    Of course, I’ll sign up as soon as I can. Question for other potential users: if the purpose of this is to encourage more spontaneous biking (you don’t need to worry about parking, maintenance, etc.) does that mean you’ll bring a bike helmet with you everywhere? Or will you go without? If you don’t regularly wear one, this is no big deal, but if you wear one religiously (like me), it’s an issue, even if I’m riding just for a short hop. Thoughts?

  • When this idea was first raised years ago, I was skeptical. Now, every time I go to Washington, I see plenty of these bikes in use. Given that DC is still has a higher crime rate than NYC, I’m hoping that if they can survive in DC, they can work here. My only worry here is the fight over real estate. Every inch of sidewalk and curb space is fought over so brutally (think pedestrians vs. store displays vs. street vendors vs. food carts vs. hawkers vs. newsracks and so on, and as for parking spaces…). 

    Of course, I’ll sign up as soon as I can. Question for other potential users: if the purpose of this is to encourage more spontaneous biking (you don’t need to worry about parking, maintenance, etc.) does that mean you’ll bring a bike helmet with you everywhere? Or will you go without? If you don’t regularly wear one, this is no big deal, but if you wear one religiously (like me), it’s an issue, even if I’m riding just for a short hop. Thoughts?

  • James

    In London and Paris, the bike terminals are literally “in the ground,” lending a sense of permanence and an inability for neighborhood “activists” to continually waste time and resources trying to get stations moved a half-block away. I’m concerned that the non-permanent system proposed for NYC might be empower the likes of our SoHo friend a bit…

  • @cb88144813ef27d8ba437df7abb9fb94:disqus Why even leave a comment if you are literally going to say nothing in three paragraphs?  That sounded a pickup line Barney would use on how I meet your mother. 

  • carma

    back in 2008, we heard the quote:  Its too big to fail.

    now, we can say, its Big enough to ONLY succeed.

  • Pbsinnyc

    Eric Boucher,

    You know how someone tells a joke and everyone gets it except you? This is kind of the same situation, sort of.  My comment wasn’t targeted at people like you.  My comment was targeted at someone who may have the power or may know someone who has the power to delay the launch of the bike sharing program.  For some reason, the part where I mentioned that I have sacrificed EVERYTHING for the past 3 years to work solely on a plan to make cities, such as NYC, more livable in a way never done before somehow clicks with them.  Even though I didn’t reveal anything, they sense my comment is genuine, and since they also have had doubts about launching a bike sharing program in NYC at this time, it is my hope they would do something that results in delaying the launch of the bike sharing program.  I realize it’s a long shot, but at least I tried.  The one thing I left out in my previous comment is that I didn’t mentioned what should be done.  So, to that someone who may be reading this, if you want what is best for the people of NYC, then do whatever you can to delay the launch of the bike sharing program till at least the end of 2012.  I will be writing an open letter to all of the city council members of NYC in the near future.  I won’t be revealing my plan, but I will shed a little bit more light on this matter.  You will be able to view the letter at…..

     

  • Pbsinnyc

    seems like I can’t make a post if it contains a link…..

    stopnycbikeshare(dot)wordpress(dot)com

  • Mike

    pbsinnyc is a troll.

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