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New York City Prepares for Nation's Largest Bike Share System

Andrea Bernstein

New York City is preparing to set up the largest bike share system in the nation. The city is issuing a request for proposals for one-way, short-term bike rentals, a system that has augmented the transportation network in dozens of European cities as well as in Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.

In a bike share system, riders can rent a bike at one location, like Union Square, and drop it off at another, for example the Lower East Side. Minneapolis, Denver and Washington DC all started bike shares programs this year. With greater density than any of those cities, New York believes it can make a profit on a bike share program.

New York City's transportation commissioner wouldn't comment on the details of the request for proposals, which will be released Wednesday morning. But Janette Sadik-Khan frequently speaks at confererences promoting the idea of bike share.

"We're ideal for it," Sadik-Khanhas said. "We have the density. We're flat. Eighty one percent of people in the central business district of Manhattan don't own a car. In this age of transit cuts, this is an ideal way to add to New York's transportation system."

The city is looking to set up a twenty-four hour network of around 10,000 bikes, with the entire bill footed by the private sector, but with the city sharing in any revenues. In other cities with bike shares, sponsorships and advertising help pay for the bikes. Earlier generations of bike share in many European cities required subsidies, but the city believes that with wireless technology, gps and solar-powered bike stations, a system in New York can be run far more efficiently.

"New York is made for bike share," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, a group that promotes biking and walking, "so this announcement is very exciting. The characteristics that make bicycling an everyday form of transportation, New York has in spades: density, flat terrain, temperate climate, lots of short trips and an on the go lifestyle. This nimble and inexpensive way to get around will fit easily into New Yorkers' constantly shifting errands and schedules."

The city hopes for the system to be running in 2012. Boston is preparing to start a bike share program soon. Montreal was the first North American city to have bike share.

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