New York Bike Share Program Stirs Controversy

Reader Contribution by Soli Salgado
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New York City has joined Amsterdam, London, Paris and Washington, D.C. in providing its citizens with public bicycles through a bike rental program. The Citi Bike Share program, which launched on Memorial Day, 2013, already has 300 stations and 6,000 bikes throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Citi Bike gives New Yorkers a simple and affordable option for nearby traveling: grab a public-use bike from a local kiosk and drop it off at another one at the end of the trip. In less than a month, Citi Bike riders have already traveled one million miles.

Alta Bicycle Share, the country’s leading bike share vendor, runs the Citi Bike program in New York. By offering membership options for a day, week, month or year, both tourists and residents will be able to use the bikes with ease in a way that makes the most sense individually. An annual membership costs less than a monthly MetroCard, and members will have unlimited access to bikes for trips under 45 minutes.

Despite its affordability and obvious environmental benefits, the bike share program already has a number of outspoken opponents. In a video posted on the Wall Street Journal website, editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz attacked the program, saying “the bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise” and that these bikes are sure to pose a new danger to the city. Citizens who oppose the bike-share program point out that 97 cyclists have been hit by cars or trucks, and claim that the stations are eyesores and pose a fire hazard outside subway stations. “The most important danger in the city is not the yellow cab,” Rabinowitz claims. “It is the bicyclists who veer in and out of the sidewalk, empowered by the city administration with the idea that they are privileged because they are helping – they are a part of good, forward-looking things.”

But the “good, forward-looking things” seem to outweigh the trivialities of annoyed pedestrians. Citi Bike is New York’s lowest cost-per-mile form of public transportation for individuals, and could save cities money by reducing road erosion, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and, with proper planning, decreasing fatal accidents. GreenGoPost writes, “Yes, the bike stations’ aesthetics could have been better; of course bicyclists need to follow the traffic rules; and Citi Bike will experience growing pains. In the end, the bicycling program will complement New York’s transportation infrastructure, and will add to the city’s overall quality of life, not ruin it.”

While the city adjusts to a new wave of cyclists, each Citi Bike adds up to one less car in a traffic jam, and one less body on a subway car. Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder and chair of the bipartisan Congressional Bike Caucus, says, “We don’t have to declare war on the automobile, but we shouldn’t let our communities surrender to it.”