NEW YORK (AP) – It works in Oslo, it started this year in Barcelona and it’s about to launch in Paris. But is New York ready for bike-sharing?
A group that’s hoping the answer is yes is providing 20 free bikes for a five-day experiment in green transportation, European style.
If the program is a hit, its backers will try to design a year-round bike-sharing system for New York.
“One of the major revelations for us is how real of a possibility this is,” said David Haskell, executive director of the Forum for Urban Design, an organization of architects and planners that came up with the bike-sharing experiment. “In major European cities they have bike-share programs that exist.”
The bikes have been lined up in a SoHo gallery called the Storefront For Art and Architecture since Saturday. Anyone can stop by and take one for a half-hour spin. It’s free, but cyclists must provide credit card information to ensure that they bring the bike back.
“I don’t typically ride a bike around the city so I thought it would be interesting to just try it,” said Sharon Jones, a lawyer who splits her time between New York City and Westport, Conn. and who picked up a bike on Sunday. “I think that the city lends itself to actually riding a bike.”
Wall displays at the Storefront describe bike sharing in eight European cities.
In Stockholm there are 1,000 bikes and 80 pick-up and drop-off stations for a population of 800,000. In Lyon there are 3,000 bike and 350 stations. Paris’ bike-sharing system is scheduled to start Sunday with 10,000 bikes and 750 stations.
Typically, users pay a membership fee and then pick up a bike and drop it off at the same station or a different one. As with Zip cars in the U.S., they can locate the nearest available bike on the Web. The programs are underwritten by companies that put advertising on the bikes.
The New York Bike-Share Project will hold public meetings today and Tuesday at which representatives of companies that sponsor bike-sharing systems in Europe will make presentations, and the public will be invited to contribute ideas for how bike sharing could work here.
Haskell said one possibility would be to start a small project in one neighborhood or within a large park like Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.
But he hopes bike sharing will eventually be adopted citywide in conjunction with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign for a greener city.
“The amount it would cost is peanuts compared to extending a subway line or adding another entire limited-stop bus network,” he said.
Matt Johnson, a Web designer from Manhattan, was sweaty but smiling when he returned his bike after riding it across the Brooklyn Bridge and back on Sunday.
“It was really fun to move around more quickly than walking,” he said. “It was a blast.”