Sign up now for NYC's bike-sharing program, debuting in May
Citi Bike, the city's first bike-share system, will launch sometime in May; annual memberships are now available.
Mon Apr 15 2013
Photograph: Amy Plitt
CitiBike docking stations in Brooklyn
City cyclists, rejoice: This morning, the Department of Transportation announced that registration is now open for yearly Citi Bike memberships, and thousands of New Yorkers have already taken advantage. (Full disclosure: This reporter signed up this morning, and is member No. 344.)
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The annual fee is $95, and early adopters get all sorts of perks, from discounts on helmets (Citi Bike is BYO helmet) to a schmancy key fob that designates you as a founding member. Although a firm launch date hasn’t been announced yet, today’s development—along with the docking stations that have popped up throughout Brooklyn—is making the May debut of New York’s first bike-sharing program feel more real. “It's the first new transportation system in New York City in about 100 years,” notes cycling advocate Doug Gordon, who runs the blog Brooklyn Spoke. “It's almost hard to imagine how huge that is.”
Getting to this point hasn’t exactly been easy: The system was originally set to debut last summer, but technical issues put the kibosh on that; Hurricane Sandy further damaged equipment that was being stored at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But after extensive repairs, upon launching, the system will be larger than anticipated: About 6,000 bikes will be available at 330 stations, as opposed to the original 5,500, making NYC’s program the largest in North America. (So far, bikes will be available only in Manhattan below 59th Street, and in parts of central and downtown Brooklyn—right now, you can check out docking stations near the Barclays Center, in parts of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, and close to Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo.)
That doesn’t even get into the larger job of convincing Gothamites that the bike share would be beneficial to begin with. The DOT and advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives put forth an unprecedented effort to get New Yorkers involved; even still, communities have vocally opposed the placement of stations, and some of the recently installed Citi Bike docks have already been vandalized. (If you’ve followed the debate over bike lanes in the city, this is hardly surprising.)
Others have questioned whether an influx of cyclists on city streets will be safe, both for riders and pedestrians. But TA director Paul Steely White dispels the notion that the program will lead to unsafe streets. “Streets with bike lanes are safer streets for everyone,” he explains. “That’s because they’re more humane streets; they are streets that are more organized. There is less chaos.” The data also backs him up: The number of bike lanes and riders has increased in the past few years, but according to the DOT, the risk of serious injury for cyclists has dropped significantly in that time.
Though it remains to be seen how popular the program will ultimately end up being, the enthusiasm over simply being able to register for a membership shows that New Yorkers are ready for this type of program—at press time, at least 2,000 people had reportedly signed up. “Some people have said that bike sharing is like a 'gateway drug' to regular bike commuting, and in other cities, people have made the switch from bike-share memberships to purchasing their own bikes," says Gordon. "When it comes to how we're all going to be thinking about getting around New York City, bike share is a game changer.”
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