Urban planners see European-style bike sharing in Gotham's future.
Thu Jul 5 2007
A lot of New Yorkers bike, and more probably would (especially in hard-to-reach parts of town), if only they didn’t actually have to, you know, own a bicycle. Luckily, the Forum for Urban Design just might have the answer. Saturday 7 through Wednesday 11, they’re teaming up with the Storefront for Art and Architecture to conduct an innovative study called the New York Bike Share Project. “The hope is to see how New Yorkers might use bikes for short trips,” says Forum executive director David Haskell, “if they were made readily available and free.”
During the project, 20 bikes will be available for pickup and drop-off at the Storefront on Kenmare Street and at a rotating series of spots that includes City Hall, Washington Square Park and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. Inside the Storefront gallery, a display of maps, pictures and literature will detail bike-sharing successes in eight European cities. The way it works over there is simple, according to Haskell: Bikes—usually no-frills, brightly painted and durable—are locked in racks until they are released, either by swiping a credit card or by sending a text message via cell phone. Since both methods are traceable, stealing a bike is difficult.
Currently, bike sharing appears most promising in areas with public transportation gaps, including parts of Williamsburg and Red Hook. But it could also relieve stress on overcrowded subway lines like the 6. “There are millions of minor trips that New Yorkers make every day,” explains Haskell. “The goal is to incentivize short trips.” Which may explain why the city of Paris offers the first 30 minutes free and the second half-hour for the equivalent of 50¢.
Haskell notes that New York is a long way from Paris, which is set to have 10,000 bikes and 750 stations by the end of summer. But the results of this study will help City Hall determine which model might work here and how best to implement it.
Nightly from 6 to 8pm, riders will also be able to offer comments and listen to presentations by city leaders and experts from the companies that manage these cycling systems. “Bottom line: Bike shares are cheap and easily implemented,” says Haskell. “And soon people will realize that we aren’t looking to limit anyone’s options. In fact, we’re giving them one that previously didn’t exist.”
For more info, go to nybikeshare.org.