New York City will introduce Citi Bike, the city's new bike-share program next. For a $9.95 fee riders will be able to borrow any of the 6,000 bikes from 330 stations located throughout Manhattan (south of 59th Street) and Brooklyn (Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, and Fort Greene) for up to 30 minutes. The system allows riders to check out a bike from one location and return it to another with no extra charge as long as rides do no surpass the allotted 30 minutes.
But what happens when pedestrians, drivers and cyclists all take to the streets? With a new city-wide bike sharing program set to launch next week, skeptics are already raising the alarm.
The New York Times reported that "critics say the kiosks are a blight. They clash with the character of residential areas of the West Village or Fort Greene, Brooklyn...."
I do not disagree with these critics. As a Brooklyn resident I have been noticing these bike stations pop up in random locations around my neighborhood, and to be completely honest, it is rather disconcerting to see big Citi-owned and stations appear on the quiet, quaint streets of Brooklyn. The first time I saw one was during a run in Brooklyn Heights. The sight of the station stopped me in my tracks and had me wondering what this would mean for the neighborhood? Will this lead to more tourism and crowds (two reasons I moved out of Manhattan)? Brooklyn Bridge already gets a fair amount of foot traffic, sometimes leading to precarious run-ins with pedestrians and cycling commuters. Add in the behemothic Citi-bikes to this scenario and you can expect more encounters.
New York streets are notoriously dangerous with taxis making up their own driving rules and pedestrians walking everywhere. Would it be wise to institute a bike share program without insisting people also wear helmets? Citi-bike is aiming its program at the local commuters, however with more than 47 million tourists visiting the city each year, it can be expected that a number of out-of-towners will partake in this system as well. Let's be realistic, how many tourists are going to bring or buy helmets just to bike the sights of New York?
I too am a cyclist and advocate for less cars on the overly congested streets of New York, but will the bike share program really encourage those who do not already bike to sign up and join? Back in 2012, the Times conducted a poll about using a bike-share program and 53% of respondents said they would not use a similar service.
Despite my negative outlook for the new bike-share program I seriously hope I am proven wrong and that this system turns into a huge success for the city of New York. Who knows, I may even be eating my own words and experiment with the bike share for my summer commuting (at least I won't have to worry about my bike getting stolen)?