City Council Leaders Support Bike-Share After Procedural Disagreement

A demonstration Bixi bike-sharing bicycle sits in Union Square ## 2009##. An official announcement about New York City's bike-share program is expected this week.

New York City’s bike-share plans are poised to make a big leap this week, with the city expected to select the winner of the contract to operate the system very soon, according to Transportation Nation. The announcement will come after top City Council leaders have signaled that they back bike-share.

“We support the bike share program for New York City,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Land Use Committee Chair Leroy Comrie in an e-mail statement to Streetsblog. “We think it’s an important amenity that will improve the lives of New Yorkers and tourists.”

Michael Grynbaum reported in the New York Times on Friday that the council and City Hall recently resolved a dispute over whether the plans for bike-share went through the proper procedural steps, in particular a vote in the City Council. The arrangement they reached calls for oversight hearings on the program in the council, rather than a vote. The council’s press office did not provide any details about which committee would hold those hearings or when they might take place.

The question at issue was whether bike-sharing is a franchise, a kind of contract the city makes with a private firm that requires legislative authority before a competitive bidding process can start. The Council maintains that the administration should have considered bike-share a franchise, Quinn and Comrie said, adding that they “appreciate the improvements to the process that the administration has agreed to.”

Also helping build momentum is the successful launch of Boston’s Hubway bike-share system. Boston hoped to sell 2,000 annual memberships by Thanksgiving according to the Boston Globe, but had already topped 2,300 subscribers by the end of August, after only one month of operation. Hubway’s ridership has so far eclipsed that of similarly-sized systems in Minneapolis and Denver, and the bulk of complaints are from people who want to see the system expanded into their neighborhood. As with all American bike-sharing systems, theft and vandalism have not been problems in Boston.

The success of bike-sharing in other American cities has only strengthened the impression that NYC has some catching up to do. As Comrie told the Times, “No one is against bike-share — it’s something that every major city across the world is adopting and embracing.”

  • Try as some might, there’s really no reason to put this idea out of commission before anyone even TRIES it. It is dirt-cheap when compared to the DOT’s capital budget, it serves virtually everyone except children and disabled persons, and it could possibly be profitable if the design is financially efficient. And, of course, bicycle commuting is as efficient a use of the surface streets as buses are, it provides a healthful activity to the user, and it’s incredibly environmentally friendly compared to personal motor vehicle use. 

    I might be preaching to the choir in saying this here, but I hope it goes through.

    (says someone who would hardly have the need for it as an owner and frequent user of a versatile commuting bike)

  • J

    @brianvan:disqus With council members like Leroy Comrie from East Queens publicly and unequivocally supporting it, I don’t think it’s gonna be a huge fight.

    Also, on a minor note, people without credit cards or debit cards can’t really use the system, either.

  • Real New Yorker

    Prediction: before NYC’s bikeshare program even begins it will sell more annual memberships than anyone is expecting.  If anything is certain about the project, it’s that it will be immensely popular with all but a handful of outer borough, parking-obsessed city council members. Steve Cuozzo will hate it, too, but who cares?

  • “Steve Cuozzo will hate it, too, but who cares?”

    I bet you he will make extensive use of it for crosstown trips, and hope nobody notices. Hipsters, keep your iPhones charged and ready. Set cameras on HDR.

  • Jeff

    The real bickering will come when it’s time to decide where to place the stations.  I just can’t wait to hear how some folks will actually try to rationalize why it is more important to provision street space for the storage of a single, private vehicle, in favor of a dozen or so vehicles available for public use.

  • Bike Share Love

    Brian: you might be surprised at its utility even as a bike owner. It’s great for one-way trips (say, a night out on the town, or you didn’t feel like biking in the rain), errand running, or giving your friend a ride when you’ve got your bike, too. I have a Boston Hubway membership and I don’t live in the city of Boston (so I can’t commute on it), I bike to work downtown, and I’ve taken about 12 trips with it in the last month and a half. I guarantee that when they come to my neighborhood the number of trips I take will go through the roof… and my use of my other bikes will go up, not down.

  • NYC needs to make damn sure they do this right and thats easy, as there are only two real barriers to success.

    1) It has to be large enough
    2)It has to be dense enough.

    Thats it. Starting with a 20 station system = fail. Spreading 100 stations over the entire city = fail.

    250 stations in lower and midtown Manhattan on day 1? Thats a good start.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t believe Grynbaum mentioned the Velib theft and vandalism problems from years ago.  At least he said it was “beloved.”

  • Anonymous

    Bike Share is going to be so great for NYC.  Our problem is that some neighborhoods just don’t have good subway access.  Living on First Ave is almost like living in an outer boro.  So bike share will make living over there so much easier.   (Just please let the roll-out go smoothly….)

    Memo to those living on 34th Street near 1st Ave: You guys will love this, but you probably would have loved the 34th Street busway better.

  • krstrois

    The City Council is just exhausting. 

  • krstrois

    The City Council is just exhausting. 

  • Former Times Subscriber

    It’s really too bad we can’t get any simple, straight reporting from the New York Times about what bike-share is, the challenges, the benefits and an accounting of how it’s working in cities like Montreal, D.C., London and Boston.

    Instead of that, we’re stuck with Michael Grynbaum, an ambitious 24-year-old cub reporter who, instead of simply trying to inform his readership and let people know what’s going on, feels the need to turn every one of his articles into a story about political conflict and fodder for water cooler chatter.

  • Dave

    if the city has to haggle with city council over placement of every station the results will be disastrous.  as already stated, replacing one private parking space with a dozen public bikes is a no brainer.  i hope bloomberg just pushes this through strong enough so that its popularity will be self-evident and will quickly drown out the naysayers.

  • Driver

    Bring on the bike share.  But to say putting in a station for a dozen bikes will replace one parking spot is not being honest. 

  • Larry Littlefield

    I just hope the city will recognize commuter rail, express bus and Staten Island ferry commuters and visitors as a key market from Day One.  

    City residents from closer in neighborhoods might already be on a subway or a bicycle that takes them right to their destination.

    Those on the other modes might find a bicycle far more enjoyable and convenient from Day One than a transfer to one or more subways.  LIRR and NJT commuters working in East Midtown, for example, or MetroNorth riders working downtown, or Staten Island ferry riders working in Midtown, or anyone working at the hospital complexes on the far East Side.

    A large number of stations are required at all the major terminals, and all the places those who come into those terminals go to.  

  • J

    @SB_Driver:disqus I agree. The bikeshare station near my house in Montreal has 15 bikes and it looks like it took over 2 car parking spaces.

  • anonymous

    It’s my understanding that this project is going to be a privately funded, for-profit venture. The city put out a request for proposal last year, but I don’t think DOT or NYC are paying for it.

    Also I think there are going to be more than 250 stations. I heard it was going to be about 1,000 in the first year.

  • Lihitamel

    Bicycles need to obey traffic laws.  On 9/12/11 I was hit as a pedestrian.  I ended up in a coma, with a face fractured in two places, broken clavicle and a brain injury.  My face is healed, I am still recovering from the brain injury and my clavicle hurts-a metal plate was put in.


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