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Neighborhoods Start Wheels Turning on Bike Share Station Locations

By Amy Zimmer | November 3, 2011 2:46pm | Updated on November 3, 2011 3:37pm
DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan rides one of the bikes through a public plaza.
DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan rides one of the bikes through a public plaza.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

UPPER EAST SIDE —  Uptown, Downtown and anywhere in between, suggestions are pouring in from the community on where to place the 600 stations for the city's new bike share program.

There have been more than 8,000 station suggestions on where to place the bikes since the Department of Transportation's new website, New York City Bike Share, launched Sept. 14, DOT policy director Jon Orcutt told Upper East Siders at a Community Board 8 transportation committee meeting Wednesday night.

“We don’t care where the stations are as long as we achieve the density we need,” Orcutt told CB8 members. “We want you to tell us where they should go.”

The announcement came a day before the City Council passed legislation that will require the DOT to consult with community boards before installing new bike lanes.

While the DOT already consults community boards for input, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the measure should "calm some of the bike lane debate."

“Bike lanes should be constructed only after consultation with the people who live and work in the neighborhoods the bike lanes are meant to serve,” she said.

As the DOT gears up to launch the bike share program next summer with 10,000 bikes at stations from the Battery to 79th Street and in parts of Brooklyn and possibly Long Island City, agency officials and representatives from Alta, the company that will install and manage the program, have made the rounds to community boards.

The stations, which will be delivered by flatbed trucks, can be assembled in half an hour and do not require digging up the ground.

They can partially cover subway grates, they can be placed in park entrances as long as they don’t block pedestrians, and they can be placed on wide sidewalks. They can go in parking lanes, and they can be put in privately-owned public plazas, if the owners so choose, Orcutt said.

On the Upper East Side, many suggestions were toward the East River.

“You can see the closer you get to the river, the more [suggested] stations you see, and I don’t think that’s an accident,” Orcutt said, noting how transit-starved the area was and how the bike share would likely be used by many people for short trips to get to other modes of transit.

“We’ve talked to universities and hospitals,” Orcutt added. “They’re very excited about this.”

One request online, for a station at East 68th Street and York Avenue, read, “This intersection is a hub for all of the students, researchers, and medical professionals who live and work at Rockefeller University, Weill-Cornell Medical School, and Sloan-Kettering. This constituency is already a higher-than-average biking group.”

"Please help!," another person at East 80th East End Avenue added. "We are so isolated on East End Avenue!"

The bike share meeting came under fire from some of those present, including some who have voiced concerns previously about the city's penchant for expanding bike lanes amid worries about rogue riding behavior.

“I’m so appalled by this,” longtime Upper East Side resident Bette Dewing said at the meeting. “It’s just going to cause more havoc on the street.”

Though Community Board 8 supported bike lanes on First and Second avenues, many board members and residents have complained about rogue bike riding behavior that prompted a discussion about licensing cyclists — an idea the board ultimately rejected.

Orcutt noted Wednesday that the bikes in the program would clearly display such rules of the road as riding with traffic and not on sidewalks. Also, each bike’s back wheel will each have a clearly identifiable number stamped on it, he noted.

“The good news from London and Washington, D.C.,” Orcutt said, referring to other cities with bike shares, “is that people crash less often [while riding these bikes] than on their personal bikes.”

He didn’t know if that was because people were taking more care of property they didn’t own or if it was simply because the heavy bikes don’t go very fast or for other reasons.

The bike share program is also working with Five Borough Bicycle Club on developing a bike safety class for riders, Orcutt confirmed.

“I think that’s an important part of alleviating some of the public’s concerns,” said CB8 transportation committee co-chair Jonathan Horn.

An annual pass for access to the bike share program is expected to cost $90 - $95; a weekly will cost $20 - $25; and a daily pass is expected to cost $8 - $10. Pass holders will get unlimited 30 – 45 minute rides at no charge. The DOT is exploring ideas to make the program accessible to people without credit cards, Orcutt said.

The city will announce a sponsorship deal for the program over the next few months and anticipate it will bring in more than the $8 million London got for its smaller bike share, Orcutt said.

Alta officials anticipate an estimated 85,000 New Yorkers will join in the first year. The company hopes to eventually make the city’s bike share memberships compatible with the programs it runs in Boston and Washington, D.C.

With Jill Colvin