CB 2 Committee Voices Support for Bike-Sharing as System Details Emerge

In Brooklyn, the borders of the bike share system will roughly follow these contours. The final service area is still subject to change. Image: NYC DOT

Committing to a “very intensive participatory planning process,” top DOT officials provided a wealth of detail about the city’s plans for bike-sharing at a meeting of Manhattan Community Board 2’s transportation committee last night. Members of the board and local residents in attendance voiced strong support for the initiative.

When DOT selected Alta Bikeshare as the system operator last month, the basic contours of the program emerged: 10,000 bikes at 600 stations spread through an area stretching from 79th Street to Bed Stuy. Last night, DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt presented new information about the service area, how stations will be sited, the system’s pricing and business model, and the public process moving forward [PDF].

Regarding the service area, Orcutt added important details about the bike-share network in the other boroughs. One slide provided the precise borders of the service area proposed by Alta for Brooklyn (right), though the boundary has yet to be finalized. DOT might extend bike-share into Long Island City, he said, giving it a foothold in Queens. Smaller, disconnected satellite systems could also be set up in the Bronx and on Staten Island; Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro has expressed interest in a system for the St. George neighborhood, for example.

Orcutt also shared a list of draft technical specifications for station placement [PDF]. DOT will avoid putting stations on sidewalks narrower than 16 feet, for example, or in the parking lane of avenues with high traffic volumes. Stations will generally be placed close to intersections rather than mid-block and in plaza space with low levels of pedestrian traffic wherever possible.

Beyond those criteria, he said, community input will heavily influence where stations are located, as long as there’s a station roughly every 1,000 feet and at critical locations. “Some communities may want them in parking lanes, some may want them on sidewalks,” said Orcutt. DOT will bring community boards and other stakeholders lists of potential sites with three to four times as many options as will ultimately be selected and let them choose their favorites. The board should feel free to say “the following locations are ‘hell no’ for whatever reasons,” he said. Those planning workshops will take place over the winter.

A sample map of potential bike-share stations in the East Village shows the typical network density of NYC's system. Image: NYC DOT

To help the community board members visualize the station density of bike-share, Orcutt showed a sample map of the East Village. From Houston to 13th Street, east of First Avenue, the map showed 20 stations.

Compared to other bike-share systems, New York’s will be relatively expensive for short-term users compared to annual members. A daily membership will cost $8-10, a weekly pass $20-25 and an annual membership $90-95. “To some extent, the tourists will be subsidizing New York,” Orcutt said. The annual membership, he added, will be “the city’s best deal short of the Staten Island Ferry.”

Though purchasing a bike-share membership generally requires a credit card, Orcutt said that the city is working to develop alternative identification systems for those who lack one, in particular a NYCHA-based group membership. Other membership-based non-profits could also sign up for group members eventually. Housing Authority residents on the Lower East Side, he said, are “close to a great job market and incredible opportunities, but not well served by the subway.” Bike-share could provide better job access for them.

Many in attendance appeared thrilled with the bike-share proposal, and no one seemed to oppose it, continuing the positive public response bike-share has received so far. “This is exciting,” said committee member Florent Morellet. “I’ll be one of the first to try it.”

“If there’s a bad part, it’s that it’s taken too long,” said local resident Fred James.

One resident who had recently moved to New York from Washington D.C. said that there, bike-sharing had improved cyclists’ behavior significantly. “The number of people cycling has increased dramatically and safety has increased dramatically. The number of people stopping at red lights and at stop signs is way up,” he reported.

  • Nothing in Harlem, Washington Heights, or Sunnyside?

  • um, red hook? no mass transit there, yet ideal for biking.

  • Anonymous

    Nothing around Columbia?

  • awaiting bike share anxiously

    Starting with density and moving to other neighborhoods is better than spreading too thin to start. When successful, it will move further and further outward from Manhattan.

  • Adlfj

    “To some extent, the tourists will be subsidizing New York.”

    That’s really quite remarkable, when you consider that for years the price of a one-day “Fun Pass” MetroCard geared to tourists did not keep pace with the price of weekly or monthly cards used by regular commuters.  I’m glad to see that bike share and the DOT have the right idea and will keep the price structuring so that it favors the people who will use it the most.

  • Zinger

    Nothing in Bermuda?

    Come on guys, unless they roll it out in the entire city, someone’s not going to get it. From experience with the Boston system, the thing doesn’t get use when your final destination is far from the stations. (A 10 minute walk tacked on is pretty absurd for an otherwise short trip).

    You’ll probably see some bikes in those neighborhoods anyway. Here in Boston, I remember seeing tourists locking the bike share bikes in Harvard Square while eating a meal… hard to imagine that being more economical than a daily rental.

  • Andrew

    The initial borders look like they do because the Alta has to accept full financial responsibility for the success or failure of the system, and this is what they think is the most lucrative area.

  • Jeff

    Judging by the map, it looks as though the southern cut off is a block or two from my apartment. While that’s good for me, I’d rather it not be as close to my neighborhood if it means more density in Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn. Those are the places the system is going to be most effective

  • Bike Share and Share Alike

    New York City residents feeling left out can thank the likes of CMs Vacca, Fidler, Gentile and Greenfield for protecting them from the scourge of bike share as they circle around and around, looking for a place to park their real transportation.

  • Sharer

    Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline are going to get Hubway stations in the coming year or so now that the system has been so popular in Boston.  Alexandria, VA is joining up with DC’s Capital Bikeshare this spring.  Other popular bike share programs have expanded in a similar fashion.

    So give it time, people.  The best thing you can hope for is for an outerboro Community Board, City Council member or local BID to opt in to bike share.  It’s certainly better for everyone involved in the roll-out — DOT, Alta, cycling advocates, etc. — if community leaders look to the system’s initial success and ask “Why not here?”

    If you build it, they will come…and other people will want to build it, too.

  • You’ll probably see some bikes in those neighborhoods anyway. Here in Boston, I remember seeing tourists locking the bike share bikes in Harvard Square while eating a meal… hard to imagine that being more economical than a daily rental.”

    It’s not, but it’s nice to know you don’t have to bring your rental bike to the store before closing time.  Those bike docks are 24/7. 

  • J

    Regarding bikeshare, the best complaint possible is “why not here?”.

  • Anonymous

    Love the “group membership” ideas for those without credit cards.  I’m a big fan of bike share from my experience in Montreal, but was put-off by how it discriminates against those not credit-worthy enough for a credit card.  Hope these ideas move forward in parallel to the bike-share rollout. 

    As for locations of stations, any business owner who wants lots of customers should be begging for a station.  When I travel now, I look for hotels with stations nearby.

  • awaiting bike share anxiously

    The cater to tourist model is interesting given that in DC, they don’t cater very well to them with only 3 bike share even close to the 2 mile long Mall (home of major museums, capitol, Washington monument, among others) or East and West Potomac Park (home of the Jefferson monument, MLK memorial, FDR memorial, cherry blossoms among others) and all the other stations are in business/residential areas

  • Anonymous

    absa, the difference here is in the densitiy and overlap between tourist, residential, and business areas.  In DC, the Mall is a tad removed from K Street and other places with lots of offices.  Not that there isn’t overlap, of course, but it’s a tad more segregated than NYC in that regard.

    Times Square, 5th Avenue, Midtown, Wall Street, Herald Square, SoHo, etc. are all areas with office buildings AND tourist attractions.  A tourist biking to a Broadway show might share the same docking station as someone who works in the Viacom building or at Reuters.  A similar situation could play out with tourists biking to MoMa and then down to Macy’s – stations near those attractions would also benefit midtown office workers.

    I think getting tourists to pay a few more bucks for bike share is a good idea, akin to taxes on rental cars or hotel rooms.

  • Commenter

    I can’t wait until Andrea Peyser at the New York Post actually figures out what’s happening here. She’s going to go berzonkers.

  • @73a27bc20bf5ce1dee9a6e325a0eecec:disqus In DC, the Bikeshare program was set up by city hall, but the Mall is managed by the National Park Service, and it was hostile to the program. 

    Not sure why. I think someone at NPS felt like being a villain in a children’s movie. 

  • I Rent Cars

    Why is it cool to tax the crap out of car rentals in NYC — where non-car owning households are the majority? Bet you a lot of the non-airport car rentals in NYC are by local residents. At least in NYC, car rental should be taxed less and car registration more.

  • Anonymous

    Repeat after me: station density, station density, station density….

    Also, any idea how good Alta is at moving re-allocating bikes to spread them out?  In Montreal, you see the Bixi bikes on the trucks all the time, as Bixi hustles to fill empty stations and accomodate rush hours. 

  • Daphna

    After a year, the Washington DC bike share was so popular that they made plans to nearly double it for the second year.  I hope the same happens in NYC.  I hope we have 10,000 bikes and 600 stations in 2012 and then 20,000 bikes and 1,200 stations in 2013!! The geographic area served could also be doubled in that second year.  I want as much bike share infrastructure and protected bike lanes built by 2013 so that even if an anti-bike mayor comes in in 2014, that mayor will not be able to dismiss the needs of bicyclists because there will be too many riders already.

    However, I read that Chris Ward (former head of Port Authority) might run for mayor; I would be excited if that were true because the other possible mayoral candidates who have been talked about have poor records on supporting livable streets.

  • dave

    when i used to live on E 9th st, I probably could have gotten 50 signatures on my block alone supporting a bike share station taking the space of two parking spots, since so few people on our block owned a car and the sidewalks were rather narrow.  i wonder if community boards and Alta would take such a petition into consideration.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Repeat after me: station density, station density, station density.”
    Right.  Let’s say some of those arriving at Grand Central/Penn/the Port Authority decide to take a bike to Lower Manhattan.  What happens if they can’t find an open place to park at a kiosk, and have to ride around looking for one?

    They really need to get office building owners on board, with bike parking in the plazas.

  • Harald

    What happens if they can’t find an open place to park at a kiosk, and have to ride around looking for one?

    Well, here in Montreal you get a 15 minute credit added if the station you want to park at is full. And there are smartphone apps telling you which stations have how many bikes/empty slots.

  • “discriminates against those not credit-worthy enough for a credit card”

    In the US our electronic payment options are both discriminatory and madly insecure. We pay for things with a number stamped on a card, and if poor people can get their hands on one it costs them outrageous fees. There is no shortage of electronic payment options that are more secure, private, and fair than credit cards—essentially, cash you can’t counterfeit. But three’s no profit in supporting them, and our government stopped taking seriously the idea of promoting the general welfare some time ago. Square and other upstart payment systems will soon provide an escape from the credit card mold… for the smartphone class.

    But in the case of bike share it seems collateral is required and technology may be irrelevant. People who are not credit-worthy may not be a good risk for the company owning the fairly expensive bicycles. I’m not sure if there’s a solution to that, electronic or otherwise. Which is too bad. Bike share is best if it is accessible to all. It is also a potential source of income, for returning bikes to areas that get depleted by normal commuting cycles. Perhaps there could be a reputation system internal to bike share and independent of credit worthiness.

  • Andrew

    @5d8617598196624cf78ed16f1a153dfb:disqus Between 1999, when the Fun Pass was introduced, and 2010, when it was discontinued, the price of a Fun Pass increased from $4 to $8.25, or 106%, while the price of a 30-day unlimited increased from $63 to $89, or 41%.  The price of a Fun Pass increased at over twice the rate of the price of a 30-day unlimited!
    (And the Fun Pass wasn’t only useful for tourists – it was also useful for residents who didn’t ride transit every day but occasionally had to make several trips in one day.)

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  • Slide

    Not yet. Patience. You can’t start everywhere. They are starting in the areas with the most density and where it makes most sense to use a bike for a commute.

  • Slide

    I don’t think the price structure is for tourists to subsidize the program but really to discourage the use of bikes for pleasure rides. A tourist will take out a bike for hours depriving much needed bikes for the intended purpose – commuting. This is not a bike rental program and the price structure is intended to make sure it doesn’t become one.


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