Why Bike Sharing Makes Sense for New York

Looking like slots on a machine awaiting giant coins to set them into action, the rows of gun-metal-color bike stations are proliferating in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Soon, Citi Bike two-wheelers will be plugged into them, and a new game will go into motion – New York City’s bike-sharing program.

Long awaited and long delayed, the bike-share plan is finally beginning. And as with any big city endeavor, there are bumps and sharp edges as it rolls out, including complaints by some residents and businesses worried about losing parking spaces.

In a city as dense and high use as New York, where every inch of public space is used by multiple people for multiple activities, it make sense that a new activity is being scrutinized, and in a few cases, resisted.

But there are several things to keep in mind. One is that New York City is not the first big metropolis to do this. In fact, New York is among the last of its sister world cities of Paris, Barcelona, London and others to adopt bike sharing. All those programs have been widely acclaimed, after some initial unease. There are now about 500 cities around the world with some 500,000 bikes for hire. In the U.S., such diverse places as frigid Minneapolis, tropical Miami Beach and mile-high Denver have them. Closer to home, in 2010 Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty instituted Capital Bikeshare, to more-than-usual trepidation. It has since been embraced and is popular; Slate magazine named it as the best bicycle-sharing program in the U.S.

It’s a good bet that bike sharing will come to be loved in New York, too. It has so much going for it:

  • Bikes are a cost-effective way to move around the city;
  • Bikes save time compared with walking;
  • Bikes are as fast as or faster than buses, which move in Manhattan at a pokey six to eight miles per hour;
  • Bikes are good exercise;
  • Bikes are energy-efficient, using no fossil fuels, just human muscle power
  • Bikes have zero carbon emissions, which means they contribute nothing to global warming;
  • Bikes can substitute for taxis and cars, reducing city traffic for those that do drive and for buses, too;
  • Bikes make the city more welcoming to visitors, which helps our economy;
  • Bikes make parts of the city that are hard to reach via subway or bus more accessible, bringing customers to businesses and people to isolated neighborhoods;
  • Biking is made for New York and New York is made for biking -- our terrain is relatively flat and our weather is moderate through most of the year.

RPA believes the bike-share program will make it easier for New Yorkers to move around the city, putting more jobs, schools and activities within reach. There will be some problems to iron out, but ultimately bike share will boost New York’s economy and quality of life, just as these programs have in other cities. Plus, biking is fun.