New York Times
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
New York Chooses Company to Run Bike-Share Program
New York Times
Published: September 14, 2011
The Bloomberg administration has selected Alta Bicycle Share to bring an ambitious bike-share program to New York, the city’s latest foray into transforming its streets to make them more hospitable to cyclists and pedestrians.
The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon at a press conference at a pedestrian plaza in the Flatiron district, where a sample bike station — a kiosk and a rack of sturdy, utilitarian bicycles — was on display.
By the time the program is to officially begin next summer, it is expected to feature 10,000 bicycles available at 600 stations in Manhattan, south of 79th Street, and in select neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The company said it was exploring options for adding stations in other boroughs.
The city’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, has been anxious to bring New York up to par with global cities, including London and Paris, that have been praised for improving clogged city centers, partially through encouraging bicycle use. In the last four years, Mr. Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, has rolled out 250 miles of bike lanes, and the bike-share program was seen as another central element of the city’s plan.
New York’s program would become the largest bike-share effort in the country, but it also brings outsized concerns about the placement of thousands of bicycles and hundreds of rental kiosks in parks and on sidewalks and streets.
The program will require participants to purchase long- or short-term memberships that include an unlimited number of trips of as long as 45 minutes; additional fees would apply for longer trips. A yearly membership would cost $100 or less; other pricing details have yet to be finalized.
“We could not be more excited to bring our successful bike share system to New York City,” Alison Cohen, president of Alta Bicycle Share, said in a press release. “Bike share is a new form of public transportation that will help connect New Yorkers to their own neighborhoods, to other neighborhoods and to public transit.”
Alta will introduce a trial program in the spring, testing a smaller number of stations at locations yet to be chosen.
In November, the Department of Transportation issued a request for proposal seeking companies interested in running the bike-share program. But the requirements were high: bidders had to promise that the program would be self-financed and would not require taxpayer help. The bidder could not excavate streets to build its stands or allow the bikes to take up too many parking spaces. The contractor also had to consult with city officials on all of its sponsorship plans to avoid making these bikes look purely like two-wheeled advertisements (think Ricky Bobby in the film “Talladega Nights”). Most of all, if the winning bidder makes any money on this venture, it has to share profits with the city.
Six bidders submitted proposals in February, and city officials narrowed the finalists down to B-Cycle and Alta. Alta Bicycle Share, based in Portland, Ore., runs programs in Washington and Boston and in Melbourne, Australia, and its supplier of bicycles and related equipment, Public Bike System Company, provides the bikes in programs in London, Montreal, Toronto and Minneapolis. B-Cycle, which is affiliated with the manufacturer Trek, has been associated with programs in Denver and Chicago.
The selection process has not been without controversy. The Department of Transportation faced heated discussions with City Council members about whether the agency had inappropriately excluded them from the planning stages of the program. Council members argued that because the bike-share network would be run by a third-party vendor, it was considered a franchise, which requires the Council’s authorization to run.
On Friday, the Department of Transportation agreed to hold public hearings and briefings on the progress of the program with the Council