Montreal, London, Paris, and now it’s New York’s turn to get its own bike share program. The exact date is not set up yet but NYC Bike share said the program should start working in May. The 70 stations have all been installed in Brooklyn and the 260 left are now being deployed in lower Manhattan, on their way to reaching 59th street for May.
To make sure New Yorkers will be ready to ride safely on the roads of the city, NYC Bike Share set up a series of classes for inexperienced bikers. At least four other sessions are planned in Front Greene and Soho over the next weeks. Nearly 20 curious Brooklynites signed up to attend the class on Thursday night at the Red Lantern Bicycles.
“People who don’t ride all the time are very nervous to ride on the streets,” Emilia Crotty, the education and outreach manager at NYC Bike Share said.
“If nothing else; follow these four rules,” Crotty said to the small crowd. “Yield to pedestrians, stay off the side walk, obey traffic lights and ride with traffic, not against it.”
Registrations for City Bike opened on Monday and 5,500 people have already asked for the annual membership that cost $95. Members will have 45 minutes to ride from one station to another.
For those who think the time allowed for a free ride is too short, Crotty advised them to get as far as possible, dock their bike to one of the stations and wait at least a minute before taking another one. “By docking and undocking bikes, you can ride all day long without paying extra fees,” she said.
A team will also be driving around the city to take the bikes out of the docks when the stations are full, she said, and put them where they are needed. “It will take a few weeks to understand the riding pattern,” she added.
Diego Gerena-Quiñones, an advocate for Transportation Alternatives, said he was very excited by the arrival of the bike share system. He already owns a bike, but it won’t prevent him from buying the annual membership.
“If I am out with friends and I left my bike at home, I could always use the City Bikes,” he said. “It is just a convenient way to supplement the hole in the public system and get around quickly.”
Safety is not really an issue in New York, he said, as long as “you know how to ride smart.” As a bike messenger who rides eight to nine hours a day, he is used to the dangers of the roads. “Hyper alertness is important,” he explained. “You have to compensate for the obliviousness of drivers.”
He learnt the lesson the hard way, when, in July 2013, a women suddenly opened the door of her car and hit him as he was coming up Madison Avenue at full speed to deliver his last package. He finished his day at the emergency room.
“My attention was not on the road for a split second, I was looking for the building that I was going to deliver to,” he said. But the young cyclist brushed himself up and the next day he was on the road again.
The bike sharing system should help prevent those kinds of accidents, Crotty explained to the Brooklynites at the bike shop.
“The more riders are on the streets, the safest it is for the cyclists,” she said. “Drivers become comfortable seeing them and pedestrians expect them.”
Surprisingly, bike shop owners approve of the bike sharing program. “It is not a competition”, Brian Gluck, 33, the owner of the Red Lantern Bicycle, said. “People are going to realize that biking is the best way to get around the city.”
“They are going to want to buy a bike. They will buy helmet, they will buy lights and they will need tunes up,” he added. “[Bike share] is a gateway drug.”
NYC Bike Share’s tips to drive safely on the road:
– Ride at least four feet away from parked cars. A lot of people don’t check the road before opening the doors of their car.
– Wear a helmet. In New York City, only children 13 and under as well as working cyclists are required to wear a helmet, but NYC Bike Share strongly encourages people to buy one. The Department of Transportation also distributes free helmets during special events. To know when, click here.
– If there is no bike lane and you ride in a narrow street, get in the middle of the road, Crotty advised. “The car will go at your speed.”
– Keep your ears and thumbs free. “Do not listen to music, or look at your cell phone,” she added.