If you live in New York City, you might have noticed the hundreds of new Citi Bike Share bicycle parking stations that have been set up over the past five weeks. They are finally set to launch for Memorial Day Weekend for members only and day/week pass holders soon thereafter. You’re either dreading it or curious about it.
My first thought when I first heard about the bike share program a year ago was one of terror. As a biking commuter, long-distance road biker, and Manhattan ER Nurse, I feared that the influx of 6000+ bikes on the city streets would result in a sharp increase in accidents in the opening weeks of the program.
My position has since changed, although I do still have a few issues with the bike share program:
1. It doesn’t provide helmets and day/week users likely aren’t going to purchase one for such a short period.
2. The program is only for commuting in Manhattan below 59th St and in the Dumbo/Brooklyn Heights/Vinegar Hill/Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn as the first 300+ stations will only be in those areas: Too bad if you live and/or work outside that area.
3. As the bikes don’t come with locks, you cannot stop anywhere along the way.
4. The 30-45min time frame allotted to bike share users (non-member/member) is not enough time to bike on those sturdy (see heavy and slow) bikes from say Brooklyn to Midtown or lower Manhattan to Midtown, unless you want to pay extra for your commute.
Despite these issues, Citi Bike Share is trying to achieve a few goals. It is giving non-bike owners the chance to try out using a bicycle as a primary mode of transport. It is offering everyone over the age 16 the chance to have a healthy and environmentally-friendly commute while making one contemplate the purchase of a bike for transport and leisure.
By increasing the number of bike lanes in the city over the past few years, NYC is slowly becoming more bike-friendly. While it may not achieve the status of such bike-centric cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen in the near future, it is trying to break up the American love affair with cars, deeming it not a status symbol but an unhealthy lifestyle and poor environmental choice.
With an influx of 6000+ Citi bikes, I see biker safety in numbers – the influx of bikers will assist drivers and bikers to co-exist on the same roads. With fewer parking spots due to increasing bike stations across the city, residents and visitors might think twice about driving a car the city and opt for a bicycle instead. With a decrease in pollution and better lung and physical health, what’s not to like? And, according to the Department of Transportation, the Citi Bike share program will generate $36 million in economic activity a year and is creating 170 new jobs. The Citi Bike share will change NYC for the better, one biker at a time.