After five years of planning, hundreds of public meetings, a delay caused by Hurricane Sandy and a last-minute flurry of complaints about the size and location of the docking stations, New York City’s bike-sharing program began operation today.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, launched the system Monday morning with a news conference beside a bike station near City Hall.
Roughly 6,000 bicycles are now available for public use at more than 300 bike docking stations in Manhattan south of Central Park and in some neighborhoods of Brooklyn. The system already has sold 13,000 annual memberships.
The installation of the bike docking stations over the past few weeks prompted a spate of complaints about their placement in historic neighborhoods and the amount of sidewalk space they occupy.
But Bloomberg has called the public meetings in advance of implementing the bike lanes and the bike-share program “the most extensive outreach effort ever done for a transportation project.”
If the bike-share program succeeds, some expect that the bicycles will be called “Mike bikes” or “Bloomberg bikes,” as bikes on the London bike-share system are called “Boris bikes” for London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Launch of New York’s bike-share system was expected to occur last summer, but it was delayed first by computer software problems and then on Oct. 30 by Hurricane Sandy, which flooded the facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard where the bikes were being stored.
The delays meant that my hometown, Fort Worth, was able to beat New York in starting a bike-share program. Fort Worth’s system was launched on April 22, Earth Day, with about 300 bikes and 28 docking stations.
By this summer, New York expects to have 10,000 bikes available for rental, which would make it the largest such program in the United States and one of the biggest in the world.
By then, the bike-share network is expected to cover the Upper East and Upper West Sides; Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Crown Heights in Brooklyn; and Long Island City and Sunnyside in Queens.