October 24th in Washington Square, next to the arch, several bikes were in a line, locked to a steel structure with a small solar panel and a little screen. All of the bikes were the same model, with a bold front and two wheels covered in plastic. A Melbourne bike, a Montreal, a Minneapolis and a D.C, a London and a Portland. Two volunteers with green shirts saying 'I bike smart' wandered around the structure answering questions until 3pm. A volunteer, Al Silvistri takes the bike out showing that, unlike the Velibs in Paris, these bikes will stay to their ports.
The event was one of several demonstrations taking place around the city in the preparation for a new bike share system in New York City. According to their site, the privately sponsored system will have 10,000 bicycles and 600 stations throughout the city starting the summer of 2012. This is significant next to Montreal's 5000 bikes and DC's 1000. New York City is the last of the large, cosmopolitan and high demographic cities in the world that is adopting the bike share system. Bike sharing began in Amsterdam in the 1960's and has slowly infiltrated the world.
For New York City, the program will involve a membership to the company Alta Bike Share. Annual membership will cost $94 with options for less long term time as there has been complaint about using the bikes in the winter time. The first half hour is free, "most people won't have to pay more than the annual fee because most commutes in the city are less than 2 miles" said Silvistri. In 2010 there were 17,491 cycling commuters in New York City. Alta Bike Share hopes to raise this, "people don't have places to store their bikes" Silvistri said, which would make having bikes outside more convenient.
The issues involved in the bikes occur when there is theft or vandalism, poorly maintained docking stations and people not wearing helmets, according to Portland Oregon's website on bike sharing.
Regulation in New York City will be implemented financially by holding credit card information. This Contrasts with the Velibs in France where there is no annual fee, but a hold of 200 Euro on the Credit Card in case the bike breaks during the voyage. The bikes are also equipped with GPS chips in each. Silvistri demonstrated the lock, there is a lock at the front of the bike that connects to a titanium hook in the dock so that people are not able to wrench the bike from a more exterior lock, which has often occurred in France.
All of the docks are steel structures placed on the sidewalks so that there is not need for construction on the site.
25% of all accidents on the street involve pedestrians or bicycles. Concern over biking in New York City will be addressed as soon as there are more bikes on the road, "there is safety in numbers" Silvistri said, "people will start policing each other." There is more to bike safety than just helmets and density of bikers though, The BMJ organization of health went even further to say that, according to their studies, cyclists that mimic cars and car behavior, by obeying traffic laws and staying at a high speed, will lessen chances of injury.
According to Bikes Belong a site that studies biking trends in the United States, biking in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and New York have expanded significantly or doubled since 1990.
The project has not yet decided where the bike stations should be. There is an interactive page on their site allowing the public to choose their most convenient locations. The stations are marked in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and on Staten Island.
"This whole city could be a biking city." Said Silvistri as he locked the Montreal bike back into its dock.