Gotham is gearing up for the invasion of the bikes, with an onslaught of pedal power that will give street life a new spin.
The Bloomberg administration will spread 10,000 bicycles among 600 bike racks around town by next summer.
The bike-share plan, which takes its cues from similar successful programs in Paris and Washington, D.C., is facing doubters over safety concerns. But city officials couldn’t be more thrilled.
The bike racks, which will be installed “every few blocks” throughout Manhattan and in some Brooklyn neighborhoods, will be “a fast, easy and affordable way to get around town,” transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.
Annual membership will go for about $100 — less than the cost of a monthly MetroCard, she pointed out — which gives riders unlimited free trips under 45 minutes. Daily passes will also be available.
The three-speed bikes will have GPS, in part to help the city find stolen bikes. The bikes can be returned to any rack with an open spot.
The provider, Alta Bicycle Share, will put up the $50 million it is expected to cost, and also find private sponsors to splash their names on the bikes and racks, CEO Alison Cohen said. Any profits will be split with the city.
There are some skeptics.
“New York is not Paris,” said Robert Sinclair of AAA New York said. “Our roads are lousy with many irregular pavement conditions and other problems — potholes and irregular pavement and other things that can swallow a bicycle or a bicycle tire and send a rider flying.”
But Sadik-Khan dismissed those concerns, saying the number of bike riders in the city has doubled in the past four years, “and our streets have never been safer.”
Rules of the road will be posted on the new bikes, and since they don’t come with helmets, members will be sent coupons to buy their own at a discount.
Some bike rental shops were leery.
“Nobody is going to rent from us,” said Ilhan Altun, 24, a sales agent at Crescent Bike, near Central Park.
But not all business owners were fretting.
Savas Sevil, of Central Park Bicycle shop, said he’d only feel the impact during the slower seasons.
“It’ll just be the initial competition,” Sevil, 39, said. “It wouldn’t hurt us at all.”
New Yorkers expressed excitement about getting around town without mass transit.
“That’s nothing,” said landscape architect Richard Alomar, 45, of the annual fee. “It puts on the same level as the other great cities of the world.”
So the bike-share has you intrigued? Here are answers to five common concerns of the intrepid New York biker.
1. Everywhere I look there are cabbies, potholes, swinging car doors and heedless pedestrians.
Yep, it's dangerous to ride New York's streets. Even as the roads grow more bike-friendly, certain perils will always be present. If you intend to make like a car with your bike, know what you're getting into. For a recreational ride — as opposed to a gritty commute — stick to the parks and perimeter greenways.
2. I can't find a helmet that doesn't make me look like a dork.
What a shame — and that bandana looks so cool. Yes, helmets are generally not the stuff of runway shows. But, you know what they say: Wear a freaking helmet, okay?
3. Everyone is glaring at me during my joyride.
Your oblivious riding is giving other cyclists a bad name. Give your neck some exercise by continually checking your surroundings. Throw out a "My fault, I'm sorry!" to a pedestrian if, accidentally, you get too close for comfort. Use hand signals and look over your shoulder to alert drivers to your next move.
4. My bike just got stolen.
That's really too bad. But didn't you know that New York is reputed to be the bike-theft capital of the world? Next time, lock your (replacement) bike's frame to something that's driven into concrete. For extra security, use two more locks to fasten the frame to each of your wheels.
5. The next highway exit isn't for another mile.
What are you, nuts? Bicycles aren't allowed on expressways, drives, thruways or any other 50 mph-plus highways. What's more, renegades like you don't belong on sidewalks or (when you're headed in the wrong direction) on one-way streets or their bike lanes.
(Max J. Dickstein)
Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja