NYC Chooses Alta to Operate Bike-Share System With 10,000 Bikes

New York City has selected Alta Bike Share to run its public bike-share system, under an arrangement that promises to make bicycling an integral new transit option for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. The Public Bike System Company, which supplies systems in London, Washington, Boston, and Montreal, will produce the bikes and kiosks.

The winning bid features the hallmarks of the world’s best bike-share systems — there will be many bikes and many stations, spaced closely together so that any kiosk is a short walk from the user’s destination.

Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, and a group of elected officials are announcing the selection of the winner this afternoon, and we’ll have a report from the event later today. For now, here are the some key factoids:

  • Within the service area, which will stretch from the Upper West Side and Upper East Side to Bed Stuy and Greenpoint, New Yorkers will have access to 10,000 public bikes at about 600 stations.
  • Annual memberships will cost under $100. Members will be able to make trips of up to 30 minutes at no charge.
  • The stations will be sited with input from local communities, and the City Council will hold hearings on the program.
  • The system must operate without public subsidy.

All told, we’re talking about a system that will address several longstanding and disparate transportation-related problems faced by New York City residents: the long walk to the train station or bus stop that could be a short bike ride, the barriers to cycling posed by fear of theft and lack of storage space, the difficulty of getting across town in Manhattan.

Bike-share is going to change NYC’s streets. Stay tuned.

  • John W

    $100 a year and no public subsidy!? Lame! New York is years behind London on just having the bikes and on top of that London has a better system. Boris Bikes are used by Londoners and tourists alike and take strain off the ailing tube system, you simply swipe your debit card, and take your bike. This could really have been great but its exclusive and prices too many New Yorkers out of the system.

  • whir

    Yeah, I’m curious about what the cost is after 30 minutes as well.  Something will need to be pretty unusually awesome about this program in order for it to be more cost-efficient than simply owning a bike.

  • Anonymous

    Not sure what John W is complaining about. $100 a year membership for
    unlimited free 30 minute rides for a year seems reasonable to me. And I assume they will offer shorter term memberships as well. I used the system in Montreal a couple of weeks ago. $5 one day rate. Simple swipe of the credit card to use, nice ride. It worked great. I hope they go for 7 speed internal gears rather than the 3 speed they use in Montreal, but not a big issue either way.

  • jon

    i think $100 is the maximum yearly rate that could be charged according to the agreement, at least thats how i read it. i dont think it necessarily will be $100.

  • Anonymous

    You can buy a bike for $100-$200, so if you anticipate it being stolen or destroyed less than every other year, it is cheaper to own, assuming you have free parking.

    But $100/year doesn’t sound excessive (it’s comparable to one month’s MetroCard), and 30 minutes lets you cover half of Manhattan. It’s pretty convenient not having to worry about where to park the bike. Most people in NY don’t have bike rooms and don’t have a lot of room in their homes to store their bikes.

  • John, i believe the system is pretty much like London’s on Montréal’s, where the membership is facultative and targeted at frequent users. And the yearly membership cost of London’s Barclays Cycle Hire is £45, which is $USD 71. So it’s not that far off.

  • UWS cyclist

    I hope people will be able to use their TransitChek benefits for membership and rental costs.

  • Anonymous

    @a365ab755396c3e2e829ca97f3532b4e:disqus : If someone steals a hubway bike, there are 9999 others you can ride.If someone steals YOUR bike, your day is ruined. 
    Same with flats/crashes. If it’s your bike, you’re down until it’s fixed. Bike share bike? Get another and you’re back on your way. 

    Got up out of sorts and rode the MTA to work? No problem. WIth bikeshare you can still bike back home in the evening. 

    Missed an infrequent bus that you take to the subway? Grab a bike and go. 


  • Yes, you can buy a bike for $10 at a yard sale, or use you kid’s BMX for free, but a good lock-up kit costs at least $100, and is necessary to ensure that the bike is where you left it. You don’t have to lock up your bike-share bike.

    Also, you can’t take a bike into the city on the MTA railroads or NJ transit during rush hour. Bike share lets suburban commuters use bikes in the city without having to schlep them from home.

    And what ocschwar says too; I fully endorse his comment.

  • Larry Littlefield

    My view is that with sufficient marketing and the publication of safe routes to locations beyond walking distance, there could easily be demand for 10,000 bikes or more at just the following locations: Grand Central, Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and the Staten Island Ferry.

  • Brick

    This seems like it could be useful to the plethora of people commuting in from the tri-state to Grand Central/Penn/Port Authority/WTC. Rather than walking, taking a cab, or crowding onto the subway, just take a quick trip on your (very cheap) bike and you’re at the office =)

  • Anonymous

    I own several bikes and I cannot wait for bikeshare to launch in NYC even though it won’t initially cover my neighborhood. Even if I didn’t anticipate being able to use it to make errands and lunches during my workday/afterwork easier, I have no doubt that all cyclists will benefit from the greater visibility of bicycles on NYC streets — in safety, in normalizing the bike as a viable travel option, for example. Great news! I’m sure a few details will need to be worked out — kinks are inevitable. I only wish the launch were happening sooner. 

  • Greg

    I’d like to see the final pricing scheme, but if it is anything like $99/yr plus a 30-minute time limit after which additional fees kick in . . . well, that is not reasonable in my view. 

  • Eric McClure

    Where do I put down my deposit?

  • David

    Was the business model for these guys? FWIW it looks like they are not an advertising agency – I like that!

  • I hope they have the wisdom to place a few thousand at Grand Central and Penn stations. With bikes banned on peak trains, the bikeshare will offer the only decent way to connect to many places in Manhattan.

  • Streetsman

    I think Ride the City’s map of where in the city routing requests are coming from is a pretty good guide to where the stations need to be located:

  • dporpentine

    $100/year and 30 minutes to use them before additional fees? Sounds fantastic to me. People dole out that much for rentals for a few hours. And, um, 10,000 bikes? That’s a double-digit percentage of the total number of bikes DOT counted in its screenline count for 2010. If we have that many more bikes on the street every day, especially if they’re ridden many times a day mostly by casual users, it’s going to be a lot harder to pretend that every person on a bike is some methed-up messenger/spandexed racer/fixie-fixated hipster/name your stereotype.

    Very good news, I think.

  • step-through

    This would bring the flexibility that NYC needs to really take up the bicycle. The city is all about options – in the course of a single day, you may walk, take a bus, take the subway, walk some more, and take a cab. You can’t have that freedom if you have to keep track of your bike – you shared a cab or walked to lunch with your friends, but now your bike is locked up a mile away. It just becomes a hassle. Bike share makes cycling another seamless part of the multimodal system, which is what actually makes it convenient.

  • whir

    More details at this NY Observer article:

  • Anonymous

    As great as this is, the usual one-size-fits-all model makes it useless if you are going somewhere with kids. 

  • Questions, questions, questions: 

    * Who will be the corporate sponsor or sponsors? Will this sponsorship be greenwash as with Barclays Bank/London  (financier of weapons) or Rio Tinto/Montreal (uranium mining and human right issues related to mining)?

    * Why was a group like Straphangers Alliance kept uninformed until now?

    * Consider a very useful A+B+C journey from an outer Borough into Manhattan, where C is bike share and B is the subway. A is a private bike but can one park it safely all day at a subway stop?

    * As with the Alta-run system in Washington D.C. and Boston, will users be obligated by the contract to wear helmets? Is selling helmets at gift shops in hospitals as is done in connection with the Boston program a good way to market cycling as safe?

    * Will the NYC bike share website show everyone wearing helmets as the sites for D.C. and Boston do? Will the NYC website show a cyclist with a very poorly-fitted helmet as D.C. does now? (One of the rotating photos at, and I have been telling them about this since the beginning. If they change it see my own blog )

    * How will NYC avoid the common 3rd generation bike share problem where some stands are empty and others have no spaces for bikes? Will New Yorkers tolerate having to walk a few hundred extra yards at times in order to compensate? (Other systems have moved beyond this weakness).

    * Over 4 million people ride the subway every day in NYC, so while very optimistically this system will at first have 50,000 uses a day, how will the cheerleaders act about this 1.25% contribution?

  • TrollShare

    At this point there’s enough evidence from people who have ACTUALLY used bike share to consider the nay-sayers simple trolls.

    My advice: hop a train or plane to one of the many cities that have bike share and prepare to be converted.

  • J

    Amazing news! I can’t wait to see a map of where stations are proposed. I’m really glad to hear density being repeated as the key to the system’s success. As for the cost, the observer article says that the program will cost less than the cost of a monthly metrocard. I may very well get a membership, since I would probably use the system more than 20 times in a year, even though I’m only in NYC part of the year and have a bike there.

    I live mostly in Montreal, where I use the Bixi pretty frequently, even though I have my own bike which I use constantly. The bikeshare is perfect for filling gaps where it doesn’t make sense to bring your own bike. For example, I took Bixi to meet up with a rideshare to go to NYC, since I knew I wouldn’t be dropped off in the same location when I came back. It also allowed my mom to bike around with me when she visited. It’s wonderful because anyone can easily become an occasional biker, and therefore aware of the problems facing cyclists.

  • J

    Hah!!! Even Sean Sweeney is in favor of bikeshare. He just wants a say in where the stations are placed, which is fair enough. He actually sounds entirely reasonable, even insightful in the Observer article:

  • J

    Also, there is now a website for NYC Bikeshare up. You can submit ideas for locations of stations!

  • dc_cyclist

    The price structure for the systems in Washington and Boston includes a yearly fee and fees for use.

    The first 30 minutes of EACH trip are free.  That means you can take a bike, ride it for 29 minutes, check the bike into and out of a station, and the clock is restarted.  For folks who will subscribe annually, there are usually very few instances in which the additional fees are charged unless you use it for long rides without stopping.

    Also, in Washington and Boston there are daily, weekly, and monthly memberships.

  • J
  • Anonymous

    @Streetsman I would argue that the Ride the City stats be used only marginally to locate stations. Part of the goal has to be to increase bike use in areas where it is less common but has high potential. I suspect the high use the RTC stats show for Central Park and Hudson River Greenway are primarily commuters and tourists who probably take longer rides than what bikeshare intends. For bikeshare, you want stations scattered around in a much more diffuse pattern that complements other existing modes. Also keep in mind that many people may use Ride the City to show “safest” routes, not most direct routes, and one big feature of bikeshare is for short rides under 30 minutes, which suggests more direct routing rather than “safest” routing. So while RTC data may be useful to a degree, there must be many other considerations. 

  • Better late than never, NYC! May your bike-share system be *almost* as awesome as DC’s! 😉 

  • In Boston there is a two-minute gap between when you can drop off a bike and pick up a new one at the same station.  This prevents some of the station-hopping or gaming of the system that might allow people to hog bikes and more or less get an all day rental for free (Provided they are willing to take short, two-minute breaks every half hour.) 

    In NYC, I’d suggest the gap be a tad longer than two minutes to help keep bikes free and available for those who need to take the short trips bike sharing is designed to enable.  Ten minutes might do the trick.

    The price structure in Boston makes it so that taking a bike out for four hours or more costs over $50, with a max of $100 for a 7- to 24-hour rental.  It’s a nice gesture to tourist-dependent companies like Urban Adventours and Bike and Roll, which offer all day rentals for less than $30 or $40.

    There’s also a strong incentive to return the bike.  The program takes a $150 deposit on your credit card, returned when you re-dock the bike.  (Use a credit card, not a debit card if you’re a casual member to avoid fees or going below a minimum balance.)  The replacement cost for the bike is $1000. 

  • Driver

    The cost of an annual membership will probably rise  once NYC starts hammering the shuttle trucks needed to move bicycles around with tickets.  The chance of these trucks being able to park legally while they pick up or drop off bicycles are slim to none in many of these areas. 

  • Mike

    Sean Sweeney said “No stations should be placed in Soho.”  How is that reasonable?  It just shows his ridiculous NIMBYism — even things he likes, he doesn’t want in Soho.  Why does anyone listen to his BS?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I hope they have the wisdom to place a few thousand at Grand Central and Penn stations. With bikes banned on peak trains, the bikeshare will offer the only decent way to connect to many places in Manhattan.”

    Right, instead of having the inefficiency of carrying bicycles two ways on trains, those in the suburbs or outer areas of the city could ride their own bike to the subway, commuter rail or express bus, lock it there, and then use a bikeshare bike to complete their journey.

  • The pick where you want a station feature is interesting, but totally unscientific. Proper research – i.e. mailings to residences, etc. – would be very expensive but much more useful. The sponsor should pay for it — really, what conditions will there be on the sponsor?

  • Driver

    “No stations should be placed in Soho.”
    It’s not like it’s a tourist destination or anything.  The ridiculousness of that statement made me laugh.


  • carma

    There are 468 subway stations in NYC.  If there are 600 bike stations, i think this could be something BIG!!!!

    but please oh please expand this to queens also for the trial period.  us queens folks would like this as well in our neighborhoods.

  • Jabir

    There may be a lot of:

    “I want a bike share station located NEXT DOOR to my building/house/business.”

  • Anonymous

    At least in Manhattan, there should be more than enough dead plazas in front of various skyscrapers, and these would be perfectly good as bike docks. 

  • Ferrydawg

    Only ferries get new transit subsidies in New York City. Express buses get cut, local buses get cut, student transit passes get threatened, bike share gets no public subsidy, public plazas have to be maintained by local business sponsors. Ferries get new money. Why?

  • Anonymous

    I was just at the announcement and took one of the bikes out for a
    spin. I’m very impressed. This program has worked well in Boston,
    Montreal, Chicago, Washington DC and other cities.

    If NYC can embrace the Zipcar concept, the same can happen with bike-sharing.

  • tw

    Oh, I hope they put a kiosk at Utica & Fulton Street and another at Carroll & 5th so I can easily get to and from work. I usually ride my own bike but would do this instead of schlepping my big bike chain around. =

  • Anonymous

    If Vacca is going to head up the City Council hearings on this program, what is the point? He just does not know how to run a fair hearing, and nobody at City Hall cares. Similarly, wouldn’t transportation engineers be better qualified to determine station locations than communities full of haters like Sweeney in Soho or NBBL’ers in Park Slope?

  • David

    Is this a pilot? Ha ha!

  • David

    On your last point,
    How many passengers does one additional subway train accommodate? How much does it cost to purchase / operate an additional train?

  • David, I dunno, maybe a million or two per carriage and a couple hundred people? 5k per bike seems to be a bit above average.

  • I don’t like the idea.  I suspect it will seriously interfere with parking for city resident riders who already own their own bicycles.  I suspect this creates a bicycle monopoly.  It will kill small bike shops.  It creats a conflict of interest for the city who will their policy favor: owner-operators or this company?  Furthermore, serious riders, just like regular motorists, prefer their own bikes and for good reason: cyclists vary much more than motorists in ability and expecxtations.


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