New York bike share program delayed until March

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First it was supposed to launch in July. Then pushed back to September. Now New York City’s bike-share program won’t begin until March.

The program’s operator, Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Oregon, hasn’t been able to perfect its software, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his weekly radio address Friday. Plans for a possible partial roll-out were scrapped because there is little point in starting the program in fall or winter, he said.

The first phase scheduled for March will begin with 7,000 bikes at 420 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

“We are just not going to put out the system until it actually works,” Bloomberg said. “The most fascinating thing about this is that all those people that screamed, ‘We don’t want bicycles’ are now screaming, ‘Why aren’t they here?’”

The original start date, schedule for late July, came and went with no signs of the 10,000 Citigroup Inc.-branded two-wheelers that were to be docked at 600 solar-powered depots. Three years in the making, New York’s bike share will join similar programs in more than 200 cities from Boston to Barcelona.

The first phase scheduled for March will begin with 7,000 bikes at 420 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. It will become the biggest in the U.S. once the roll-out is complete.

Private companies, not taxpayers, are behind the funding for the program: Citigroup, the New York-based bank, is contributing $41 million to be the chief sponsor and namesake of the program, and MasterCard Inc. is behind the $6.5 million payment system. Profits are to be split with the city.

The delay won’t affect the sponsorship relationships, transportation officials said in a statement.

“New York City demands a world-class bike-share system, and we need to ensure that Citi Bike launches as flawlessly as New Yorkers expect on Day One,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in the statement.

Alta operates bike shares in Washington and Boston. An e- mailed request for details on the software delays wasn’t returned, and there was no way to leave a voice message at the number listed on the company’s website.

Rollouts of similar Alta-operated programs in Chicago and Chattanooga, Tennessee, have also been delayed, according to local news reports.

Transportation Alternatives, a New York-based advocacy group for cyclists, pedestrians and mass transit, said it supported the decision to delay the start date.

“While we are eager for Citi Bike to begin, it’s more crucial that this groundbreaking transit system be launched correctly, not quickly,” Paul Steely White, the group’s executive director, said in an e-mailed statement. “In time, the circumstances of Citi Bike’s launch will be all but forgotten and we’ll all be enjoying a city made safer, healthier and less congested.”

Since 2007, New York has added more than 290 miles to the now more than 700-mile-long bike-lane system, part of Bloomberg’s efforts to tackle two of the city’s most persistent problems: congested roads and ever-widening waistlines.



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