Annual memberships went on sale for New York City’s delay-plagued bike-share program, the newest public transit option in the most populous U.S city.
Beginning next month, 6,000 Citigroup Inc.-sponsored bicycles will be available from 330 solar-powered docking depots in parts of Manhattan south of 59th Street and in sections of Brooklyn, transportation officials said today at a news briefing. The first 5,000 to buy a $95-per-year pass will be deemed “founding members” and get access to perks, including discounts, they said.
“This is good for business, it’s good for mobility, it’s good for safety, it’s good for the city,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told reporters in Brooklyn.
The docking stations, where bikes will be housed when not in use, began cropping up in recent days, a sign that the program’s latest given start date of May would hold up. The program was initially slated to begin in July 2012 and got delayed, first by software problems and then by Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters, which damaged electrical components in about two-thirds of the equipment.
New York’s bike share will be the biggest in the U.S., joining similar programs in more than 200 cities from China to Barcelona. Private companies, not taxpayers, are behind its funding: Citigroup, the New York-based bank, is contributing $41 million to be the chief sponsor and namesake, and MasterCard Inc. is behind the program’s $6.5 million payment system. Profits are to be split with the city.
Sadik-Khan praised the program’s pricing, which favors the heaviest user and is competitive with subway and bus fares. An annual membership costs $95 for 45-minute rides, $17 cheaper than a monthly subway pass. A 24-hour pass covers an unlimited number of 30-minute rides for $9.95.
When it was initially announced in 2011, officials said the program would grow to 10,000 bikes.
“We’re starting with the 6,000 bikes first, and we’ll take it from there,” Sadik-Khan said in response to a question about plans for expansion.
Since 2007, New York has added more than 300 miles (482 kilometers) to the now more than 700-mile bike-lane system, and the streets have never been safer, Sadik-Khan said. The number of related injuries has remained flat as the number of cyclists has doubled since 2006.
Also during this time, the city has distributed thousands of free helmets and will continue to do so, she said. Members will also get access to discounts on the protective headgear.
“Bike helmets will be as common a New York City accessory as an umbrella or sunglasses,” Sadik-Khan said.