New York City's Bike Share Will Be 10,000 Strong, Stretch from UWS to Crown Heights

capital bike share e1316031218643 New York City's Bike Share Will Be 10,000 Strong, Stretch from UWS to Crown Heights

It's big in D.C. In New York, it will be big. (Getty)

The city has been in the thrall of a bicycle backlash for the past year, after the city’s Department of Transportation ran lanes through the East Village, Upper West Side and, most controversially, along Prospect Park West, which led to a lawsuit filed by neighbors living on the thoroughfare.

Things seem to be finally calming down—the lane lawsuit was defeated, recent polls have put bike lane support north of 60 percent—but how will the city react when the Department of Transportation and its love-her-or-hate-her Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan roll out a massive bike sharing program across Manhattan and Brooklyn next summer?

Comprising roughly 600 stations with 10,000 bikes, the scheme will, according to two people briefed on the plans, stretch from the Upper East and Upper West sides down to the tip of Manhattan and over the bridges into Brownstone Brooklyn, reaching as far as Greenpoint and Crown Heights. “The whole point is it needs to be dense,” a city official told The Observer. “It needs to serve a lot of different trips in order to be viable.”

The city has selected Alta Bike Share of Portland, Ore., to install and manage the system in a public-private partnership. The firm launched the popular Capital Bike Share in Washington, D.C. last year, which was expanded again this year, and this summer it opened the New Balance Hubway in Boston. With 110 and 61 stations respectively, both are considerably smaller than New York’s planned roll-out. Capital Bike Share is currently the largest such program in the country.

The New York system is expected to be similar in that 24-hour, multi-day or annual subscriptions will be available, and as with Boston or London, where Barclays is the partner, Alta will be seeking a sponsor to help bring in revenue, with any profits to be shared with the city. As with its two U.S. systems, the first 30 minutes are expected to be free, with nominal fees for each 30 minutes after.

An annual membership should cost less than the price of a monthly MetroCard, according to the official.

A call to Alta’s offices in Portland confirmed that the firm was the winner and said that an announcement would be made today, though the woman who answered the phone said that was all she knew. A DOT spokesman declined to comment.

Gene Russianoff, spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, said he did not know anything about the specifics of the city’s bike sharing program but whatever the program, would be a boon for the city’s mass transit system. “Not to sound to policy wonky, but it extends the reach of the subways and buses because these things tend to be placed near the stops,” Mr. Russianoff said. “What might have been a schlep isn’t so much anymore.”

Concerns have been swirling in the city about a bike share program, particularly after The Times published a story in June pointing out that Montreal’s Bixi system, in which Alta is a partner, had been losing money and had to be bailed out by the city for more than $100 million.

The bigger issue will be deciding where to put all those stations. “DOT and Janette Sadik-Khan’s problem is they say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, take it or leave it,’” said Sean Sweeney of the Soho Alliance, a frequent DOT critic. “Instead, it should be, ‘Here’s 20 racks, where would you like them?’” He expressed concern about whether the stations would be located on too-narrow sidewalks or in valuable parking spaces or other inopportune locations.

Still, he said it would be nice if done right. “I walk a lot, I’ll walk from 59th Street downtown,” Mr. Sweeney said. “Let’s say I don’t want to walk or take the subway, then a bike sounds nice. But it’s still a matter of giving over public space to a private company, so we have to be careful.” He added that no stations should be place in Soho.

The department has long argued that it goes out of its way to work with the community on project siting, but just last week it went a step further and agreed to coordinating with the City Council before placing any of the bike stations. “There are plenty of wide sidewalks or plazas, little underutilized corners of the streets where these would be perfect,” the city official said. “It’s like a bus station, though. You can’t tell us you don’t want them anywhere in your district.”

mchaban [at] | @MC_NYC


  1. Mike says:

    “He added that no stations should be place in Soho.”

    Does Sean Sweeney have any principles at all other than NIMBYism?

  2. SOHOer says:

    In Sweeney’s world, one private car owner should have priority over 10 public bike users, even if the company is privately run.  Makes ZERO sense.  He’s so bad for business and the neighborhood it’s laughable.

  3. Chris says:

    Why does any publication bother giving Sean Sweeney a voice as a representative of Soho? If he wants to live in his own perfect little bubble where there are no bikeshare stations for his own selfish reasons, perhaps he should consider moving to a cabin in the woods.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sadly, once again notorious NIMBY crank Sean Sweeney is quoted in a misleading article about bike share, just like in the New York Times. What exactly is his expertise on this issue? What qualifies him to get ink on the topic? Merely because he is a “a frequent DOT critic”? What is with this? Does he take all you reporters out to lunch or something? In the entire city or world you couldn’t find anyone else to ask for your article? Too lazy to call people in London, Paris, Montreal, Barcelona, Boston, D.C., Minneapolis, Miami Beach, or any other city where bike share has actually been installed  to comment on what are the issues surrounding public input on bicycle sharing implementation? Pathetic, and transparently biased

  5. Karen Chin says:

    I hope these bike share stations are placed in areas that are kind of a schlep from subway lines, as well as in other boroughs like Queens and Staten Island eventually.

  6. T2222T says:

    Did anyone ask me where all those car parking spaces should go?  No?  Then Sean Sweeney should go away.

  7. car free nation says:

    That would suck if there were no places in SOHO. That’s where I work, and I plan on using these a lot. Who the hell is Sean Sweeney anyway? Was he elected? Is he mayor of SOHO? Last I heard, we all had a voice.

    1. Anonymous says:

      “Who the hell is Sean Sweeney anyway?”

      Mayor of the SOHO Starbucks on Foursquare.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You guys at the Observer will be joining in the JSK love fest once your reporters start using these bikes to go cover breaking stories. 

  9. Sweeneyed says:

    Seriously.  Sweeney needs to answer this question: why does a private car owner get to store his private vehicle on public space at taxpayer expense?  One block in Soho can store about 20 – 50 cars, depending on the length and size of the street.  So why doesn’t it make sense to let 20 bikes take two (!) parking spaces.

    I really want him to answer that.  If I own a Mercedes or a shitbox clunker, I can store it for free on the street, with no benefit to the thousands of people who use the street 24-hours a day.  Why is that okay in his mind?

    1. Anonymous says:

      I was just at the announcement and took one of the bikes out for a
      spin. I’m very impressed. This program has worked well in Boston,
      Montreal, Chicago, Washington DC and other cities.

      If NYC can embrace the Zipcar concept, the same can happen with bike-sharing.

  10. Andrew says:

    DOT should put one right in front of Sean Sweeney’s apartment.

  11. BatteredChef says:

    Yeah what happens when the people of new york each put a bike share bike in their car or apartment. 
    I’m sure they will sell for a high price on ebay.

    1. Chris says:

      What happens? They pay $1,000 for the bike with the credit card on file, since they didn’t return their bike. And if they sell it on eBay? They’ll get caught, because the bikes are specifically designed to be so distinguishable that they’re clearly Bikeshare bikes.

      Believe it or not, this isn’t some two-bit operation. They’ve thought about these things.

  12. Thierry says:

    I think the first bike sharing program was in Lyon, France, many, many years ago. It costs nothing to the city.

  13. Friendlier998 says:

    I love an article that in no way describes the subject it’s about. What exactly is bike share and how does it work? Is it simply a city bike rental stand?

  14. biker101 says:

    What a great idea.  Would be better if it was free like Holland

  15. JayManRay says:

    Whether you agree with him or not, you oughtn’t dismiss Sweeney.  He does more research than most people, and donates a great deal of his time and effort to keep downtown from being overrun by unplanned/unlawful activity.  I have met him, and found him reasonable on matters of planning and preservation, and his opinions tend to be generated after a lot more consideration than some of you have apparently given this matter.  You ought to try a reasonable discussion in a forum where your opinion can be effective toward change, and you ought to resist the urge to attribute a competing opinion to NIMBYism; that just ends the reasonable part of the discussion and exposes you as a lazy debater.  Pay attention to Mr. Sweeney’s comment that he thinks a bike ride could be nice.  I am not sure how accurately he is represented about hoping there are no bike stations in soho; you may notice that he isn’t directly quoted.  I would like to ask him about that, but it doesn’t make sense that he would brush it aside without there being more to it.

    I am pro-bike, but I also see the difficulties some of the bike lanes and their configuration cause between pedestrians, bikers and car drivers.  I think that these new bike lanes (newer than the streets and sidewalks) necessarily came with a bit of “clinical study”, meaning that they needed to be tried in real time, otherwise no study would have accurately gauged their effects.  While this may be true of proposed bike-sharing stations too, they merit careful consideration before they are constructed (especially without zoning approvals).  I hope there are a lot of them in our future, and I hope their utility and the business model survive the initial novelty.

    I think the NY Observer’s tag of “road rage” regarding this story is
    asinine, and appears to seek to feed some sort of an unnecessary fight
    between bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers.  I am tired of this sort of
    thing, and I am finished with the Observer.

  16. Eric McClure says:

    Soho is exactly the type of neighborhood that needs bike share

  17. shockwave says:

    Manhattan needs to fix the bike lane problem first, make them all 2 way. The one way system breeds danger- at least with 2 way lanes, people will ride to the right when passing.

  18. Darcey says:

    I get the impression that nothing would make Sweeney happy. What a jackass! I’d hate to be his Holiday Gift Exchange partner.