In 2009, the Department of City Planning released an ambitious blueprint for bike-share in New York, and in 2011, the Department of Transportation began an extensive public process to site actual bike-share stations. Now the planning is giving way to implementation, with North America’s largest year-round bike-share system set to launch in May. Today, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson marked an important milestone: New Yorkers can now sign up for annual bike-share memberships.
Annual membership sign-ups have been open since early this morning, and more than 2,500 people have already subscribed at the rate of about $103 per year (including tax), which entitles users to unlimited rides up to 45 minutes long.
The other big news from DOT today is that the system will be launching with 6,000 bikes at 330 stations, about 10 percent larger than the most recent launch plan. It looks like damage from Hurricane Sandy won’t impede the rollout of the system as much as originally thought.
Approximately 60 stations are already on the ground, and the system will launch in May, though Sadik-Khan didn’t specify a date. For the first week of operation, Citi Bike will be open exclusively to annual members; after that, 24-hour and seven-day passes will be sold at bike-share stations.
Sadik-Khan also announced a few perks for the first 5,000 people to sign up, including blue-colored “founding member” keys, discounts on certain brands of bike helmets, and a free 24-hour membership pass to share with a friend. Additionally, the first 500 members will be invited to the launch ride, when bikes will be distributed to stations across the service area on the system’s first day of operation.
“Bike helmets,” Sadik-Khan said, “will be as common a New York City accessory as an umbrella or sunglasses.” Later, the commissioner pushed back against a reporter’s question about requiring helmets to use bike-share. “No successful system in the world mandates bike helmets,” she said. In fact, Melbourne’s bike-share program has been crippled by a compulsory helmet law, and proposals for such a law in New York have gone nowhere.
Another reporter asked for Sadik-Khan’s reaction to complaints about station siting. The commissioner reminded the press of DOT’s extensive station planning process, which involved thousands of New Yorkers and hundreds of community meetings over the past two years.
Reporters at today’s press conference posed a lot of questions about the smaller footprint compared to the implementation plan announced last spring, as well as the program’s delays, caused by Hurricane Sandy and software troubles.
Wolfson took the long view. “It will be an enormously successful program,” he said. “No one will remember that it could’ve been in March as opposed to May.”
While DOT isn’t providing projections for anticipated Citi Bike usage, Sadik-Khan noted that Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC, set a one-day record of 11,368 rides over the weekend, and Wolfson said New York will quickly pass those numbers. “We will significantly outstrip any other city in the country in terms of usage,” he said.
Half of NYC trips, Sadik-Khan noted, clock in at under two miles, making bike-share a good option for many of those journeys, as well as for connecting to bus and subway service.
“New Yorkers have an enormous number of choices in how they get around,” Wolfson added. “And now New Yorkers will have another choice.”
After the press conference, Sadik-Khan and Wolfson decided to take the bikes for a spin in front of the cameras. After unlocking the bike with her key fob, the commissioner tried to pull the bike from the dock by its handlebars, before an aide stepped over and reminded the commissioner that the easiest way to take out a bike is by slightly lifting it by the rear wheel. In a few weeks, thousands of New Yorkers will be getting familiar with the system in the same way.
“The wait is almost over,” Sadik-Khan said.