Next summer, when you’re in Park Slope and need to get to Greenpoint but you’re slapped in the face with another horrible “G Train suspended” notice, you may have another option that will make you feel less unclean than shelling out for a cab. Bike share is finally coming to New York City! Details like cost and locations are still being worked out, so here’s what we know so far: 1) it will include about 10,000 bikes, making it the largest bike share in the country; 2) there will be 600 stations in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Manhattan south of 79th street.
But here’s the big question: since Brooklyn is rather bike-loving already, will we really use a bike share? To find out what the system is really like, we checked in with some friends Washington DC, the next nearest bike-share enabled city, which just passed 1 million riders on its one-year anniversary. Take a look at their assessment of the pros/cons of the system and tell us: where do you want to see bike share stations in our city?
Why buy a bike?
“I live on Capitol Hill and love it. My wife takes it to the gym in the morning. I use it to make the mile ride to the ball park. Everyone who asks why don’t you just buy a bike, I say: who wants to worry your bike is gonna get stolen at dinner or while you’re at the bar.”
—Mike Hoffman, defense reporter.
“It’s a pretty low yearly membership ($75) and no marginal cost assuming I return the bike within 30 minutes which you can avoid paying if you need the bike longer by switching at stations along the way. But I think the main draw is that I don’t have to keep or maintain a bike, or worry about it being stolen, so long as I return the bike to a station when I’m done.”
—Colin Welch, U.S. Education Delivery Institute.
“The ability to do one way bike travel is seriously convenient, you can change your destination, take metro home, whatever… In fact, I’ve heard of a not-insubstantial number of bike owners that have memberships just for that convenience of going somewhere and not worrying about having to take their bike back home.”
—Megan Lovett, Georgetown Law student.
Beats the train (in DC at least)
“It’s fast, efficient, fun to use. DC as you know has some serious gaps in our public transportation system, and this fills those holes nicely (snicker). I went to brunch last weekend in Dupont. The trains were all fucked for repair work, so I hopped a bikeshare with my friend and rode to Metro Center in six minutes. If they were able to flood Brooklyn with a bunch of stations, it could change the traffic footprint of the borough.”
—Dave Pittman, Department of HOMELAND SECURITY.
“They have to reinvest a lot in forced rebalancing of bikes (ie having someone move them via car than by riding), since the natural flow is from out neighborhoods into the business districts in the morning and vice versa in the evening. It’s a stupid crazy jobs program. You have people rebalancing the stations, people to fix the bikes, people to install the stations.”
The curse of popularity
“My biggest concern with it is it’s not expanding fast enough. In the beginning you never had to worry about not having an open dock to park it or empty bike racks. Now you have to constantly check the Bikeshare app to see where the most bikes are.”
“The main drawbacks are the limited bike slots and stations at the periphery of the city, including my neighborhood. For example, last Friday I was meeting my girlfriend at Cleveland Park for dinner and rode the bike there, but found that the station was full and had to ride a ways (and walk back) to find another station. It’s not a problem in the city, since there are a ton of stations, but outside the center they get spread out.”
“If we ride to an event, most likely the stations are all full around the event and my buddies have to ride an extra quarter or half mile to the next available station to park, while I’m just looking for street signs and lamp posts to lock up to. Same with busy rush hour days, sometimes stations near neighborhoods are empty, stations near offices get full, etc.”
You won’t be winning the Tour de Brooklyn
“Another problem is that the bikes are decent but not great quality (e.g., they only have three gears), which means that they’re OK for commuting but bike enthusiasts wouldn’t want to ride them.”
Your RAZR won’t cut it
“The bikeshare program is really working on fixing that, adding stations and giving you flex time if you can’t find a place to park it. In all of that, a smart phone is pretty much ESSENTIAL, I don’t know how you’d find empty spots without the app… call them?? I have no idea.”
“Bottom line: One of the true recent success stories in DC.”
“But seriously, its super popular and everyone uses it… youngs/olds. it’s been a good intro to bike commuting for some of my friends and I actually taught one of my buddies HOW TO RIDE A BIKE using a bikeshare bike! The next day he rode from Capitol Hill to Georgetown… they’re just really easy, no-brainer bikes.”
“I LOVE Bikeshare. I first used it in Montreal a year or so ago, and when they said they were launching it here I definitely wanted to get a key.”
“The system works pretty well from my experience, but I’m sure there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes (e.g., maintenance and moving bikes from high-demand to low-demand stations) — so I suspect the NYC experience will depend on how well things are managed.”
Where do you think bikeshare stations would work best in Brooklyn? Tell us in the comments!
Follow Tim: @timdonnelly.