City Will Explore Broad Bike-Sharing Plan
By William Neuman
The city took a tentative step this week toward fulfilling the dream of a certain kind of urban idealist, saying that it will explore the possibility of creating a bike-sharing program that could make hundreds or even thousands of bicycles available for public use.
"This is a really big deal," said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. "In the realm of things you can do to boost bicycling in a city, bike-share is at the top of the list."
The city asked companies and organizations interested in running a bike-sharing program to provide assessments of how it could work.
A similar program was started last year in Paris, using thousands of bicycles. A program with 120 bicycles was started earlier this year in Washington.
In a typical bike-share program, participants pay a moderate fee for an annual membership and can check out bicycles from numerous stations throughout the city, returning them to the same station or another one.
The programs are meant to encourage short trips, like ones from home to a subway station or a bus stop, or from an office to a restaurant or theater. Such programs either set time limits or charge fees after a specified time, to encourage members to return the bikes quickly.
"We're really just dipping our toe in the water here, but it works in an awful lot of places, so we want to see what we can do here," said the city transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan. "We're a world-class city for biking. We're flat, we're dense, it's ideal and I think we can create a world-class bike network," she said.
The document issued this week by the Transportation Department is called a request for expressions of interest. It asks companies to describe the possible dimensions of a bike-share program in New York, including the number of bikes and stations that would be involved, how to include bike helmets in the program and the cost to set up and operate such a program.
Responses are due by Aug. 15, and Ms. Sadik-Khan said she expected to decide in the fall whether to proceed with a program.
The Department of City Planning is moving ahead with a complementary study of the feasibility of a bike-share program, according to a spokeswoman for the department, Rachaele Raynoff. She said that the department had received $200,000 from the federal government for the study.
A small-scale test of a bike-share program will run from Thursday through Monday. It was organized by the Forum for Urban Design, a group of architects, designers and planners.
The group will make 30 bikes available at four locations in the East and West Village, Chelsea and SoHo. The bikes can be taken out for up to half an hour at no charge, although participants must provide credit card information, to prevent theft. Information about the group's test is at nybikeshare.org.
The group conducted a similar program last year, with 20 bikes distributed from a single location.
"One thing we learned last year is that people are definitely enthusiastic about this," said Lisa Chamberlain, the group's executive director. But she said it was important to have more pickup and drop-off locations.
Submitted by forrest on July 10, 2008 - 15:49. categories [ ]