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Downtown Takes a Spin With New Bike Share Program

By Julie Shapiro | September 21, 2011 7:11pm
A bike-share worker explained the program to Gurmid Hira, left, a Queens resident.
A bike-share worker explained the program to Gurmid Hira, left, a Queens resident.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — New York's much-anticipated bike-share program rolled into Bowling Green Wednesday afternoon, inviting local residents and workers to take a spin.

Well ahead of Alta Bicycle Share program official launch next summer — with 10,000 bikes docked at 600 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn —  Alta was giving New Yorkers a glimpse of what's to come, with staff was on hand Wednesday to answer questions and demonstrate the technology.

"It's a quick way for you to take control of your movement around the city," Jocelyn Gaudi, member care manager at Alta, explained to a crowd of passersby who stopped to stare at the brightly colored bikes. 

"Grab a bike and go wherever you want," she told them.

Starting next summer, participants will be able to buy annual or short-term passes to use the bikes for free on short trips and for a small fee on longer trips. The bikes can be returned to any of the hundreds of docking stations around the city, making the program ideal for one-way trips to connect to mass transit or just for commuting, running errands or seeing the city sights from a new vantage.

The bike-share preview earned rave reviews from those who hopped aboard one of the test bikes Wednesday afternoon.

"It's about time," said John Williams, 58, an Upper West Side resident. "I feel like Western Europe [where bike-sharing is common] was all over us. It's very exciting."

Williams already owns a bike, but it's several years old and he isn't sure that he wants to keep maintaining it. The bike-share would make it easier for Williams to travel around his neighborhood, he said.

Gurmid Hira, 39, a Queens resident, peppered the Alta staff with questions, and then, after learning that an annual membership would likely cost less than $100, he pronounced his approval.

"It's a very good idea," he said. "It's good for your health, No. 1. And No. 2, it's convenient."

One of the most common questions Gaudi fielded Wednesday was why the 42-pound, three-speed bikes look so unusual, with bulky frames and blinking lights.

"We make them look super recognizable, so no one wants to steal them," she said with a laugh.

The bikes have to be large and bright enough to display advertising — which will pay for the program — and the frame is bulky because it contains all the bike's wires, protecting them from vandalism, Gaudi said.

The lights, which blink from the front and back of the bike, are solar-powered, and they're there for safety, Gaudi said.

Skye Duncan, 31, a Brooklyn resident, proclaimed one of the test bikes "comfortable" after taking it for a spin Wednesday.

"It's a very smooth ride," she said. "It's quite heavy, but otherwise it's great."

The next bike-share demonstration in Manhattan will be held in Union Square Sept. 29 from noon to 6 p.m.