By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — The city has peddled closer to a much-anticipated bike-sharing program this week, soliciting proposals from potential operators of the service.
Companies interested in running the program, which would allow users to rent bikes for a token sum and then return them at one of several kiosks throughout the city, were invited to submit their plans to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) on Tuesday.
City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn told DNAinfo that the department was "exploring" the possibility of a bike-share program last month. In 2009, the department put together a report on what such a program, which already exists in parts of Europe and China as well as in other American cities, might look like.
The report, which emphasized the importance of a large-scale approach in order to maximize convenience and impact, imagined a beginning fleet of 10,000 bicycles, spread throughout Manhattan, below 81st Street, and parts of northwest Brooklyn.
The department estimated that the program would require an initial investment of $30 to $40 million, with annual operation costs of $22 million. Eventually, authors believed that the program could expand to 49,000 bikes at a cost of $200 million with operation costs of $100 million annually.
While these numbers might seem excessive for a city that is cutting jobs to balance its budget, authors of the report argued that the program could ultimately be a "net revenue generator for the city," collecting fees for use and, potentially, from advertisers.
The program could also have significant environment, economic and health benefits for the city, according to the 2009 report.
But the city’s plan to solicit proposals for the bike-share project coincided with growing resistance to the city’s current bike-friendly measures and to the cyclists themselves.
A Pre-Proposal Conference for companies interested in bidding on the bike-share project will be held on Dec. 8, according to the DOT solicitation.