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Take a Ride Without Being Taken for a Ride

30 Sep

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan taking a spin

There is much hype about the upcoming New York City bike share program. I just happened to walk into the press conference September 14, where Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, announced that Alta Bike Share would manage the program. That includes maintaining the bikes and installing the solar-powered stations.

As a motorist, I’ve been critical of the city’s bike lanes because I think they cause more congestion, but probably more so because I don’t live in Manhattan; I
can’t schlep a bike in my car every day (if I drive in). So bike sharing eliminates that problem for me. And it could potentially eliminate having to pay for several subway or bus trips at $2.25 a pop. (And who knows how much it will be when the bike share program launches next summer?) I’m not doing the math–you don’t have to: It’s obviously a bargain! However, pricing and station location details are being worked out and the DOT is asking for the public’s input. So
far, the city plans to have 10,000 bikes distributed among 600 stations in Manhattan as well as parts of northwest Brooklyn. Right now, you can let the department know where you would like a station by clicking here. More about
the pricing later, since that’s what I like most.

The program is privately funded and Alta is in charge of finding corporate sponsorship. In Boston, New Balance is the sponsor of what is called the Hubway. And I figured, since I was in Boston this week, I’d try it out. My take: It’s great!

For the ladies (or those who carry bags), there is a place to park your purse on the front of the bike, safely secured by a bungee cord. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

The New Balance Hubway launched in July with more than 40 stations. It will eventually include 61 stations and 600 bikes. It is easy to use: Just swipe your credit card and get a code, which you punch into the bike’s dock to release it. One-day passes are $5, annual memberships are $85. With either, you can enjoy unlimited 30-minute-or-less free trips (for costs above the 30 minutes, visit TheHubway.com. In Boston, there are so many stations, typically with 10 bikes each, according to the city, you can easily return a bike and just take it out again to start another 30-minute journey. It’s also great because the bikes lock in electronically; with your own bike, you have to worry about properly securing it at your destination.

Boston is a little less congested than New York, which makes street cycling a bit easier. But it also has the Emerald Necklace, more than 1,000 acres of park space designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (of Central and Prospect Park fame), that has off-road bike paths throughout the city, making the experience even
more enjoyable.

And the city of Boston has made a concerted effort to enforce biking rules and educate the public. In New York, I see bikers disobeying the rules all the time. I hope that the DOT is committed to joining with the NYPD to make it safer once the program is in place.

According to Alta, there were 50,000 rides in the first five weeks of the program in Boston and more than a million rides in Washington in its first year, which is just wrapping up.

Now, back to the money-saving part: Boston’s T (for those who don’t know, it’s the city’s train system) costs $1.70 per ride with a Charlie Card (the Beantown version of the MetroCard). So, if New York City’s program costs anything near Boston’s, think about the savings! There are just so many benefits.

“Bike share is a new, affordable form of public transportation that will help connect New Yorkers to their own neighborhoods, to other neighborhoods and to public transit,” says Alison Cohen, president of Alta Bicycle Share. “At the same time, it will make New York City a healthier, cleaner, greener and safer place.”

And speaking of safety: The only downside is you need your own helmet. In Boston, when you buy your membership online, you can also add a low-cost helmet to your order. It’s not mandatory, but not a bad idea to have one.

It just so happens that Alta will hold a demonstration of the bike share program this Sunday (October 2) at the Atlantic Antic street fair in Downtown Brooklyn.

For more information on the NYC Bike Share program, visit nycbikeshare.com.

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2 Responses to “Take a Ride Without Being Taken for a Ride”

  1. Biker-Driver-Walker October 1, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    As a motorist, I’ve been critical of the city’s bike lanes because I think they cause more congestion

    Except that’s not true. Bike lanes do not cause more congestion. Bike lanes make NYC’s streets safer, more efficient and more accommodating to more users. Also, this is not a matter of how you think or feel. Call DOT. Ask them for some before-and-after data. You’re a journalist, right?

    Boston is a little less congested than New York, which makes street cycling a bit easier.

    Boston traffic is hellish. What are you talking about?

    And the city of Boston has made a concerted effort to enforce biking rules and educate the public. In New York, I see bikers disobeying the rules all the time.

    NYC’s DOT and major advocacy organization, Transportation Alternatives, are far more active than their Boston counterparts in road user education efforts.

    By the way: I see motorists disobeying the rules AND KILLING AND MAIMING New Yorkers ALL THE TIME. One New Yorker is killed in a car crash every day on average. Why don’t we focus on that? Likewise, why don’t we focus on changing the rules of the street to accommodate and prioritize cyclists and pedestrians ahead of you and your automobile. The reason why you see cyclists breaking the rules so often is because the rules were developed and the streets were designed for automobiles.

    • bloggains October 1, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

      I appreciate your opinion, but I’m talking about bikers running lights, not using bike lanes-and there are plenty in NYC–and going in the opposite direction of traffic. Yes, there has been an increase in cyclists in New York, but if you look at specific areas where they’ve taken away a lane for automobile traffic, you hear a lot more honking and see a lot more gridlock, Have you seen 9th Ave btwn 17th and 14th Streets? Also, NYC DOT has just started to do studies of pedestrian/bike accidents, so I cannot comment on that. I don’t disagree that cars hit pedestrians all the time.

      As for Boston, I disagree, New York City is far more congested. In my opinion, it is due to the many bridges and tunnels in and out of Manhattan. They get backed up into the streets–sometimes on both sides. Boston has far fewer arteries, and one is underground, as we all know. Again, appreciate the comment. But I have to disagree with you on some points. Transportation Alternatives is a great organization, but some people (food delivery people in particular, and there are many more in NYC than Boston that travel via bike) just don’t obey the rules.

      We’ll see all the stats when the city is done with its study.

      I also want to add that there are many parts of the city as well as New Jersey with poor access to public transportation, and many are still forced to drive into the city.

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