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Actually, People at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Are Excited to Use Bike-Share

5:09 PM EDT on June 27, 2012

An area worker takes a Citibike out for a test drive this afternoon. Two bike share stations are proposed for Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, though cycling in the plaza itself would not be allowed. Photo: Noah Kazis

Attention Scott Stringer: The anti-bike share NIMBYs of Turtle Bay don't speak for everyone who uses Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

I spent about an hour in Dag Hammarskjold this afternoon, talking to neighborhood residents and workers who had flocked to the plaza to enjoy their lunch break or shop at the Greenmarket. Citi Bike operator Alta Bicycle Share had set up a stall with demonstration bikes, so passersby were probably better informed about the city's bike-share plans than the average person on the street.

Overwhelmingly, the crowd was excited not only to see bike-share come to New York, but to Dag Hammarskjold in particular. Of the more than a dozen people I spoke with, only one expressed any serious reservations about bringing bike-share to the plaza, and many said they'd use the stations themselves.

"A station here would be cool," said Monet Fauntleroy, who works around the corner at 46th and Third. "It seems like a good program." Fauntleroy said she doubted she'd use it herself -- if she did, she said it would replace cab rides -- but her coworker Jamie Levit said she would try it on her commute from the West Village. "I can't carry a bike up my walkup," she explained.

Ron Kuuafka was another potential customer, though not until bike-share expands next year. His commute from 69th and Riverside to an office near Dag Hammarskjold is short, but not particularly well-served by the subway. Bike-share, he said, might be a nice change of pace from transit, and healthier to boot.

The toughest criticism of the plans for bike-share stations on Dag Hammarskjold came from a retired resident of the neighborhood who only offered her first name, Loretta. "There's a certain peacefulness here, when the market isn't happening," she said. "I wouldn't want bikes zooming through." But Loretta was willing to give bike-share a chance. If the stations were sited in such a way that riders went right onto the bike lanes of First and Second Avenues and stayed off the plaza itself, she said, the location might work out well. The city's plans, it should be noted, call for the stations to be sited in the curb lane, not on the sidewalk.

Other area residents were enthusiastic about the location. Donna Tinnerello, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1970, hoped it would ease some of the congestion below her window on Second Avenue. "It's good stuff," she said. "There's no carbon fumes." At 70 years old, Tinnerello said she was past trying out bike-share herself -- and urged bike-share users to follow the rules of the road to make it more comfortable for older pedestrians like her -- but believed that Dag Hammarskjold was a good spot for the system. "This is a good location for anything," she said.

One group that clearly stood to gain from the placement of two bike-share stations on the plaza were the Greenmarket vendors selling food at the market today. Alison Czech from Terhune Orchards liked that bike-share is targeted particularly at short trips and errand-runners. "If this is their errand, then great," she said. Kate Galassi of Maxwell's Farmstand thought she'd see additional sales just from the people dropping off their bikes. "Doing business is totally dependent on having people walk by and then having people linger."

For bike-share to really take off in East Midtown, however, better bike infrastructure may still be needed. Though most of First and Second Avenues have protected lanes, alongside Dag Hammarskjold, cyclists have to ride in either painted or shared lanes. UN employee Samahita Bender said she strongly supported the idea of bike-share but wouldn't be using it herself. "I'm German," she explained. "In Germany, bike lanes are very safe. They're not right in the street."

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