By Julie Shapiro
MANHATTAN — Imagine pedaling along cobblestone streets with a baguette under one arm on a bike that costs less than a trip on le métro.
New Yorkers now have to travel to Paris for that experience, but soon they may be able to get it right here in New York, as the city moves closer to adopting a Parisian-style bike-share program.
"We're exploring it," Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan told DNAinfo Tuesday.
Sadik-Khan said it was too soon to give a timeline on the arrival of shared bikes, but that city officials have recently expressed support for the idea.
The idea behind bike shares in urban areas is for commuters to pay either a small membership or per-bike fee, and then pick up a bike at one of dozens or even hundreds of kiosks. Riders can then leave the bike at another kiosk near their destination, and they never have to worry about bike storage or maintenance.
"Bike-share programs are ideal for densely populated cities like New York," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told Transportation Alternatives in a survey of mayoral candidates last year.
One thing Sadik-Khan is looking at is how New Yorkers would treat shared bikes. In Paris, thousands of the public bikes were stolen or vandalized, but other cities have not had such large problems.
"That's why we're exploring it — to see [how the bikes would fare]," Sadik-Khan said.
New York's Department of City Planning issued a report in 2009 that strongly supported bike sharing. Nearly 50 percent of the people who work in the city live less than 5 miles away, an easy biking distance, the report said.
A bike-share program would work best in Manhattan south of 81st Street and in northwest Brooklyn, areas that have a high volume of cyclists or tourists, the report continued.
The report also noted that the program could make money for the city through advertising on bike kiosks. But in order to attract enough riders, the cost to users would have to stay below public transit prices.
Kim Martineau, spokeswoman for Transportation Alternatives, added that a bike-share program would make cycling safer for everyone, since it would increase the number of bikes on the road.
"We think it would work great," Martineau said. "It's time to put them out there and see what happens."