Zipcar, Meet Zipbike

Two remarkably similar yet fundamentally different campaigns are underway to promote vehicle sharing in the city.

Earlier this month the Brooklyn Record noted a new web site devoted to attracting Zipcar service to Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.

Zip Fort Greene says, "The closest [ZipCar] wheels are a brisk 15 minute walk (and once construction zipcar_09_1.jpgbegins on the Atlantic Yards project, getting a Zipcar for some weekend shopping — forget about it)." The site has an online petition, which as of this writing has attracted 142 signees, in hopes of luring the company to establish a neighborhood "pod."

As Brooklyn Record points out, Zipcar stresses the "green benefits" of its service, which it touts as "a utility — as valuable as electricity, heat, and hot water." According to Zipcar, many of its clients drive less and purchase and maintain fewer cars.

"With each Zipcar replacing over 20 privately-owned vehicles," the company says,  "we’re changing the urban landscape." (In more ways than one.)

Meanwhile, an alliance between Transportation Alternatives and Clear Channel Communications could bring bike-sharing to New York, reports the Sun.

The program would work very much like Zipcar — only with bikes. For a nominal annual fee, members would use a smart card to access the bikes at kiosks, with additional charges based on the how long the bike is rented.

The memberships and fees will ideally discourage stealing, according to T.A. Deputy Director Noah Budnick. As of now, three kiosks are planned — for the East Village, Long Island City and Governors Island — each equipped with about 100 bikes.

The proposal, which would require city approval, is modeled on successful efforts in Lyon, France, Stockholm, Sweden and Portland, Oregon.

Paris is about to debut a massive program of its own, with 1,450 kiosks and 20,000 bikes.

The New York program would be funded through Clear Channel ads on the bikes and at the kiosks — another similarity to Zipcar, which plasters ads on its vehicles. Clear Channel already sponsors bike-sharing in Sweden, Spain, France and Norway, and should be coming soon to D.C. and Chicago.

Image: Moskow Architects 

  • lee

    governors island? biking is prohibited there. is that supposed to change soon?

  • Nona

    The other cities that have these bike programs all look much nicer to ride in.

    That said, the person walking 15 minutes to a ZipCar should get a folding bike or learn how to take a bicycle’s front wheel on and off – increases your accessibility to these cars quite a bit.

  • Last week I interviewed the guy who is running Paris’s “Velib” public bike program. I’ll try to get that online soon. One of the most remarkable aspects of it is that it’s not costing the city any money to set up. In fact, JC Decaux is kicking a percentage of ad revenue back to the city as part of this deal that included bus shelters and other street furniture….

  • Also… I’m not sure if TA’s bike sharing program is really all that far along. Can anyone from TA add to that?

  • steal this bike

    Will they also rent big ass chains and padlocks with these share bikes? Because if they don’t, within a month, half of these bikes are going to be painted black and parked in front of Chinese restaurants. How much do these Paris guys know about bike theft here?

    F* Zipcar. It’s no better than Hertz or Avis and makes using a car cheaper for people who already don’t have a car. That means more driving. Zip’s Boston numbers about reducing car use dont mean squat here where far fewer people have cars.

  • Aaron Naparstek

    The bikes and all their parts are very unique and not interchangeable or useful for regular bikes. You can’t hide a stolen bike or use the parts for anything. Theft isn’t a big problem in germany or lyon, france.maybe new yorkers are different.

  • I’m interested in seeing how the bike-share works out.

    I use the Deutsche Bahn (German National Railroad) Call-A-Bike in Berlin and it’s quite convenient, but part of the “magic” is that you can leave the bike whereever you want, within the city-ring. You call in the location of where you lock the bike, and then it’s available for the next person.

    Key points: the bikes are purpose-built (heavy-duty), and there are enough of them scattered around so that you can reasonably find one. And the technology that supports them ties it all together,

  • James

    Yeah, let’s stop kissing Zipcar’s ass. A car is a car — emissions, gasoline burning. Just saves yuppies money and lets them keep raping the planet. I question your purity for posting this, Streetsblog.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Hm, James. You may have been posting tongue-in-cheek, but I think that there are some people who would seriously believe this. I’ve been thinking about it all evening.

    Zipcar is certainly not unambiguously a good thing, but any people who can be converted from car owners to Zipcar members are net pluses for the environment, because that’s one less car and one less parking space. Also, there’s less incentive to drive a Zipcar than a personal vehicle, because (a) the person doesn’t have as much invested and (b) the incremental costs are higher. In that way, it’s better than a personal car, but not as good for the streets as a traditional car rental service like Hertz.

    Even in New York, many people will need a personal vehicle at some point in their lives, if only for a day. When my dad died and I needed to get his stuff over to my place, I rented an SUV. The goal is to get people to have the smallest investment and the highest incremental costs.

    I’d love to think that every new Zipcar member is someone who’s just gotten rid of a car. The next best thing would be that the rest of them are people who would otherwise have bought a car (and possibly moved to the suburbs), but are staying in NYC and doing the majority of their travel without a car.

    The people who would have done these trips by traditional rental or taxi aren’t much worse for the environment with Zipcar. The real minuses would be people who use Zipcar when they would otherwise have walked, cycled, used transit or gotten a delivery.

    I’ll admit that I’ve gone purist on the alternative-fuel crowd, but I think the real danger is in seeing Zipcar (or electric vehicles) as a cure-all instead of as a means to an end. To the extent that Zipcar encourages people to avoid owning cars, it’s good. To the extent it encourages people to avoid transit (etc.), it’s bad. In other ways it’s indifferent.

  • crzwdjk

    Zipcar is definitely a good thing. One of its huge huge benefits is that it internalizes more of the cost of driving. When someone owns a car, and already has a tank full of gas, the perceived marginal cost of making an extra car trip is effectively zero, especially for a short trip that doesn’t use much gas. That leads people to drive more. Having, as it were, a pay-per-ride car makes people think about whether they need to make that trip at all, and thus makes it less likely that they will take that trip. And while cars are very harmful in many ways, they are also occasionally very useful, for moving furniture for example. I think the real evil is not so much cars, but a transportation system that gives them priority above all else, and in many places ensures that owning and driving one’s one private motor vehicle is the only way to get anywhere at all.

  • Dan

    With regards to Zipcar, my mother recently gave up her car for zipcar now that she’s retired and definitely uses Zipcar less than she would have used her private car. It’s probably reduced her auto usage by about 2/3 since she started using it last year. She’s moving to Boston next year and I’m sure she’ll use Zipcar there instead of buying a new car.

    Now for the bikes. I know that everyone is going to say that people will deface and steal these bikes. This is why New York doesn’t have any quality civic infrastructure. For years all people talked about was how everything got destroyed or valdalized so we shouldn’t pay a dime to make nice what someone else will destroy. This is clearly not the case anymore. We need to get over the idea that this city can’t have nice things. We deserve to have the same quality of urban life that other cities have. I doubt that thieves and vandals are any more sophisticated here than they are in any major european capital. What we lack, and what makes these projects more difficult to acomplish is a sense of civic identity and purpose that is shared among New York’s citizens. I’m not saying people aren’t nice but rather that people are less likely to think of the city as a community to which they belong.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Yes, Crzwdjk, Zipcar is better than car ownership. But it’s not good if it replaces walking, cycling or transit.

    I have some friends who use Zipcar to do their grocery shopping at Costco. If they do that rather than buying a car it’s good, but if they do it rather than walking to a local supermarket it’s bad – from the point of view of livable streets, of course.

  • Rmis

    Just for the record, I’m a Zipcar user who would buy a car if this service was not available. It definitely cuts down the amount of mileage I’d be using if I opted for a car. Also, in my neighborhood, you can’t rent a Hertz car, pick it up at 7pm & return it at midnight.

  • Reham

    They did install these in Chicago for a while in 2010 I think at Daley Plaza and maybe other places, linked through the CTA (subway and bus) card
    But they have been gone for over a year now, must have been abandoned



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