Bike Share Program to Begin in New York

By Rachel Benaim
On August 29, 2011

A new bike share program thought up by the Bloomberg administration would make bicycles readily available for rent to the NYC public, if it ever gets off the ground. Already a success in other cities world-wide, such as London, Paris, and Washington D.C., bike sharing would install a network of public-use bicycle stations where bikes can be rented for a relatively low cost.

According to NYC's official bike-share business plan, bike share programs are defined by their low costs, the high concentration of their bike-stations over the program area, and their easy, 24-hour operations. With the stations placed at multiple locations across the city, one is sure to find a convenient pick-up and drop-off point no matter their starting point or destination.

The NYC council has established a relatively easy procedure for enlisting in this program; anyone can sign up for daily, weekly or annual memberships, which can be purchased online, or at any bike-station. Once in possession of a membership card, users merely have to swipe the card or enter their pin number at any bike station, after which they are free to select a bicycle and ride off into the proverbial sunset. Returning a bicycle is just as simple. The user finds a bike-station near their destination, and rolls the bicycle into an open docking station, which will then electronically register the bike's return.

A trial for the bike share program was scheduled to begin in lower Manhattan this month. However, the city has yet to choose a vendor to operate the program, inviting speculation that the program's launch will be pushed back several months.

For college students, a bike-share program would allow for a cheaper, healthier option of getting around NYC. Many students dislike walking in the City, finding the congestion unbearable, influencing their more expensive choice of transportation; taxi, or even, in comparison to bikes, subways. Cycling in the city has not always been feasible, as this used to require students owning a bike, or renting long-term, and finding a way of storing their bikes in the dorms, and finding a place to park it at their destination.

With this new program, however, a student does not have to worry about such logistics, thus making cycling both a cheap and fun way to see and travel around New York. Not to mention circumventing traffic both of the pedestrian and car variety.

A bike-share program is not only a more economical way of traveling than the subway or a taxi, it is also a healthier way. As the upper classmen know, the "freshmen 15" is no myth—and it doesn't end with freshmen year! A conscious effort must be made to maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially in the competitive, rigorous, and sleep-deprived environment that makes up our college years. By choosing to participate in the bike share program as opposed to "subway-ing it" all across the east side, women between the ages of 18-25 could burn an approximated additional 315 calories. According to lead dieticians, cycling is one of the best cardio activities; and one that can relieve stress, and even increase general happiness.

If all the above isn't enough of an incentive, environmentally conscious people should feel inspired by the fact that bicycles have no carbon footprint.  Biking as a sport happens to have a very low impact on the environment. By using bikes in place of other modes of transportation in a city so filled with pollution, any individual can make a contribution to cutting down environmental contamination in the City.

Even the participation of a small percentage of New Yorkers in this bike share program could significantly decrease the NY carbon footprint.

New York will certainly benefit from this new program, however the question remains whether the trial will exceed the Bloomberg Administration's expectations.

There are many concrete concerns being raised by the New York community as a whole. For example, will there now be a congestion of lawless cyclists in the City? There has already been a significant increase in cyclist related motor vehicle accidents- will the existence of a bike share program increase that statistic even more? Another issue is the minimal bike lane space in the already congested NYC streets and avenues. How will the influx of more cyclists be compensated on the roads? Perhaps because it will mean fewer motor vehicles; however, the bike share program seems to appeal more to pedestrians and subway-frequenters so decreased car traffic seems unlikely.

However, the most crippling concern being raised at the moment is in regards to the city's precious sidewalk space. Will the kiosks swamp the already limited sidewalk space- well, it is a legitimate concern. Although it has not yet been confirmed exactly how much space the bike share kiosks will occupy, New Yorker's are already beside themselves at the prospect of giving up any of their treasured sidewalk. We on 34th street are quite lucky seeing as how the sidewalk is vast enough to allow for being serenaded by a group of fund raising males without disrupting the flow of traffic. However, in other neighborhoods like, for instance, The Village, there is literally already no room to move through the street's crammed hustle and bustle - an addition of any immovable object would be nearly impossible to manage.

Regardless of some skeptical questions raised by New Yorkers, this reporter will definitely be taking advantage of this new program, and she hopes to see all her fellow students doing the same

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