'The Wheels Are Officially in Motion for New York's Bike Share Program'

picture 12 'The Wheels Are Officially in Motion for New York's Bike Share Program'

All your bikes are belong to us. (Matt Chaban)

So declared Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at a press event at the Flatiron pedestrian plaza—one of the first she ever established—across from Madison Square Park this afternoon. She outlined a lot of what The Observer already reported this morning (600 stations, 10,000 bikes, by Alta Bike Share, at no cost to the city) while taking particular care to underscore the cooperative nature of the program, something the department has been criticized for in the past.

“This is just the start,” she said from a lectern as taxis and deliver trucks whizzed by on 23rd Street. “What we really want is your help in planning the system. Tell us where we should put these racks.” She then directed New Yorkers to a new website, nyc.gov/bikeshare, where they can make their own recommendations and learn more about the program. She also underscored how the bike share system was really designed “as an extra layer” to the city’s transit network, creating connections between the bus, subway and ferry system.

Showing the apparently broad range of support for the system, the department brought out both pro-business and pro-labor leaders. “New York’s competitive edge is dependent on being able to attract talent,” said Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for New York City. “We look at bike share as a great asset to attract that talent and make this a more vibrant and appealing city.” Next up was Working Families Party executive director Dan Cantor to praise the project. “I wasn’t so sure about the third term, but this is a pretty good development,”  said. “This is one of those things we’re going to look back at in a couple of years and wonder what took so long.”

All the while, passerby kept stopping and gesturing. Many smiled or took cellphone photos, and The Observer was a little surprised at how familiar many New Yorkers were about bike sharing—perhaps this is the unfortunate effect of not being on the cutting edge of something for once. The reactions to those people we talked to were largely positive, as well.

Sheri Meyers said she had a bike at her house on Long Island, but not here in the city, where she lives near Union Square. “It’ll save on the pollution, you won’t have to drive in cars, it’s good for your health, and it’s a better way to see the city,” she said. She said she hoped this meant they would add more bike lanes, too. Out walking her dog, Ms. Meyers asked The Observer where she could find the commissioner so she could “thank her for all that she’s done.”

“I’m going to London in a few days, and that’s what I plan on taking,” David Byrne told The Observer before the press conference began. He was dressed in a pink-striped shirt and pink pants and had just stopped by to congratulate his friend on the program. “It’s faster than anything there,” he continued. “Just wait until New York sees. It just totally transforms a city once you have it.”

“The only question is, will a guy in a suit use it,” Kevin Delahanty said. Mind you Mr. Delahanty works at an executive search firm and had just hopped onto one of the bikes to swing by his office on 18th Street to see what it would be like. He said a coworker thought it would be a better way to get to Penn Station. “Maybe on casual Fridays it might work,” he quipped.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC