Strap on your helmet and roll up your pant legs: it’s free bike week! Coming right after the city's call for bike-sharing feasibility plans, the Forum for Urban Design and its partners are launching The New York Bike Share Project 2008. Starting today and running through Monday, pedal-philiacs can cruise around town (provided “town” is somewhere below 23rd Street) on a hybrid cycle free of charge for 30 minutes. The bikes can then be returned to any of the four bike-share stations set up downtown — like Zipcar, without the carbon emissions. The Forum organized a similar, if smaller, event last year. Its executive director, Lisa Chamberlain, cites the project's success as influencing the city’s plan to explore bike sharing. “The idea last year, as well as this year, was to introduce the concept to New York, to public officials as well as the public at large," she said.
The program obviously got the attention of Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner for the New York City Department of Transportation.
In a statement released by her office yesterday, Sadik-Khan called on businesses to submit reports detailing how New York City bike sharing would work — and what it would cost. “If feasible and adopted, such a program would create a network of publicly accessible bicycles at minimal cost, and could provide an important transportation link at transit hubs and commercial and social areas — greatly increasing mobility citywide,” it said. Bike sharing has had limited success in smaller, outdoorsy communities like Madison, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, as well as in Europe (of course). Recently, larger cities are showing interest — D.C. unveiled a program last month; Philadelphia is investigating one. Proponents believe public bikes can cut down on pollution, battle obesity, and provide an alternate form of transportation in a city full of deadlocked streets and packed subways.
“This is not a bike rental, touristy thing. This concept is for people who live and work and interact in the city daily and need to get from place to place,” says Chamberlain, who herself would be riding a bike were she not four-and-a-half months pregnant. ("I had to take a cab this morning across town and it was such a drag," she said. "You just sit in traffic. I could have biked across the entire island of Manhattan in a lot less time with a lot less aggravation.")
According to the statement issued by the DOT, only one percent of commuter trips in New York are done on bike — a number they hope to double by 2015. Intrepid souls eager to raise the rate, borrow a bike this week at a variety of locations listed on the Project's
website. —Kate Dailey
The New York Bike Share Project 2008 [NYBike Share.org]