CITY HALL — Citibank has been chosen as the official sponsor of the city's long-awaited new bike sharing program, which is now dubbed "citibike."
The $41 million sponsorship deal will splash Citi's logo across 600 new bike pickup and drop off stations as well as its 10,000 new bikes, which will are set to begin hitting the streets this July.
"The idea behind bike share is simple: give people one more way to get around town,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who unveiled the new blue bikes Monday morning, and said he expects the program to be a hit, especially in neighborhoods with limited 24-hour bus and subway service.
As part of the sponsorship deal, Citi will cover the full cost of the program's rollout and its maintenance, with no taxpayer investment. MasterCard will also be chipping in $6.5 million to brand the program's payment system, which will rely on small keychain fobs.
“It's as easy as swiping a MetroCard. It is as easy as hailing a cab. And in less than three months, these new, sleek citibikes will be the new tap-and-go option to get around town," said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who later took one of the new bikes on a spin around the plaza outside City Hall.
Bike shares are extremely popular in cities across the U.S. and Europe, including Washington, D.C., Paris and London, where Barclays-sponsored bikes are often nicknamed "Boris Bikes" in honor of the city's mayor.
Those who sign up for the service will be able to pick up bikes from 600 yet-to-be-announced solar-powered stations, and then leave the bikes at other stations near their destinations, so they never have to worry about maintenance or storage.
Casual riders or visitors to the city will be able to buy daily or weekly passes for $9.95 or $25 each. The first 30 minutes of any trip is free, with the price rising after that, from $4 for 60 minutes, to $13 for 90 minutes, $25 for two hours and $13 for each half-hour after that.
Residents can also buy an annual pass, for $90, which includes unlimited trips up to 45 minutes long.
But riders should also watch out for a $1,000 security deposit, which will be charged to riders' credit cards when the sign up for the service, Sadik-Khan said.
The DOT has spent recent months traveling to nearly 250 community board and other local group meetings across the city, soliciting input on potential depot locations in what Sadik-Khan said was "the most extensive outreach ever done for a transportation project.”
The DOT is set to announce the final locations, which will be stretch from the Upper East and Upper West Sides down through lower Manhattan and into northwest Brooklyn, later this week.
To help improve safety, the new bikes will be equipped with bells and lights, as well as a set of instructions warning riders to obey traffic rules and stay off the sidewalks, and on the road. The city is also planning an extensive new public safety campaign this spring to drill in the rules of the road.
New Yorkers have been enthusiastic about the launch, with 72 percent saying they supported the plan and nearly 60 percent saying they’d love to see a hub in their neighborhoods, according to a recent poll.
But not everyone was fully convinced Monday that the largest-ever bike share would work in New York.
David Green, an avid cyclist visiting from Holland — the world's biking capital — said that, while bike shares appear successful in many other cities, he wondered whether New York might prove an exception to the rule.
“I’m not sure New York is designed to have people biking on the streets,” said Green, 47, glancing up Park Place and the over Brooklyn Bridge.
“It doesn’t really seem to be a bike city," he said.
Jason Copier, 37, who traveled from Salt Lake City for Sunday’s Five Boro Bike Tour, said he loved the idea of bringing more biking options to the city, but said he wondered whether the citibikes would be strong enough to last.
“I think they’ll probably be stripped down,” said Copier, mounted on a mike he had rented from NYC Velo for the race.
The new bike share bikes and kiosks will be installed and managed by Alta Bike Share, the company behind numerous bike-share projects, including the Capital Bike Share in Washington, D.C. Any profits will be split between Alta and the city.