Bike Share Gets Rolling Across City

May 27, 2013, 9:06 p.m. ET

Mayor Bloomberg Rolls Out Bike-Share Program With a Ding of a Bicycle Bell

Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal Toby Miller returns a bicycle to a bike-sharing kiosk on Monday.

Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal
Toby Miller returns a bicycle to a bike-sharing kiosk on Monday.

Straddling a bike but never pedaling, New York MayorMichael Bloomberg rolled out a long-awaited bike-share program with a ding of a bicycle bell on Monday, an effort dubbed the city’s first new public-transit option in 75 years.

A signature Bloomberg administration initiative, Citi Bike—named for its main sponsor, a financial-services company—made its debut with more than 6,000 bicycles available at 330 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn for about 15,000 people who paid a $95 annual membership fee.

Starting Sunday, others who don’t have annual memberships can buy day passes for $9.95 and weekly passes for $25.

NYC Bike Share Instruction Sheet (Click to Enlarge)

NYC Bike Share Instruction Sheet
(Click to Enlarge)

In many stations across the city Monday, cyclists had already checked out the majority of the cobalt-blue bikes, emblazoned with Citi’s logo. More than 6,000 riders took trips on the bikes by late afternoon, city officials said.

“I think this is going to change the city,” said Antonio Mendez, 42 years old, of Lower Manhattan, an independent creative director who picked up a bike near Cooper Union. “These bikes are easy to ride, even for dummies, and super stable.”

Monday represented the culmination of years of work by Mr. Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, to promote the use of bicycles in the city. The Department of Transportation created 350 miles of bike lanes in preparation for the bike-share program, Ms. Sadik-Khan said.

The city plans to eventually install thousands more bike stations in upper Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

“It’s going to be great for millions of visitors, providing them another way to see the city,” Mr. Bloomberg said. Officials also hope New Yorkers use the bicycles for commuting.

Adrienne Grunwald for The Wall Street Journal Pat Ainsworth, left, and Hal Walker take the city's shared bicycles for a ride in Manhattan on Monday.

Adrienne Grunwald for The Wall Street Journal
Pat Ainsworth, left, and Hal Walker take the city’s shared bicycles for a ride in Manhattan on Monday.

The launch came after a long period of anticipation. The program, funded with private money, was expected to launch last summer but faced delays after technology failures and superstorm Sandy.

Bike sharing has developed a number of critics who argue the program will reduce road safety, absorb parking spaces and mar the streetscape with ugly bike stations.

Protesters turned up at Mr. Bloomberg’s Brooklyn Bridge news conference. Georgette Fleischer, an adjunct English professor at Columbia University who lives in SoHo, said the bicycle station at Petrosino Square near her home blocks an area that has long been used for public art displays. She and others are also upset that the bicycles display a commercial logo in an area known for its countercultural flair.

“It’s just awful,” said Ms. Fleischer, adding: “I have horrors of seeing someone die from my apartment window.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who generally has been supportive of the bike-share program, said Monday she was concerned about the Citi logos in a landmarked area. She pledged to raise the issue this week with the city Department of Transportation and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“I think a good point is raised. It kind of is advertising in landmark districts, which we don’t really allow,” Ms. Quinn said.

Far from any bike station on Monday, a 74-year-old bicyclist was killed in an accident with an automobile in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn Monday. Also, on Sunday, a Citi Bike was stolen as it was being delivered to a station at Second Avenue and 25th Street, police said.

Neither event was particularly unusual, but both unrelated incidents underscored the fears of bike-share opponents about public safety.

During his news conference, Mr. Bloomberg dismissed concerns about road safety, bicyclists who break laws and the aesthetics of the streets. “I’m sure there will be some teething pains, and there will be some people who need to get a wake-up call,” he said.

Later, Mr. Bloomberg hopped on a bicycle but didn’t start pedaling. He has demurred when asked about whether he would use one of the bikes to commute to City Hall.

How successful bike-sharing is this summer will partly determine whether the next mayor expands, shrinks or scuttles the program. Campaigning at Memorial Day parades across the city, mayoral candidates had different views. “If it works, I’ll expand it,” said Bill Thompson, the Democratic former city comptroller.

“I have to see it, but right now, I think we should not block our streets,” said John Catsimatidis, a Republican.

The program’s success could ultimately be determined by people like Tina Fruehauf and her husband, Pryor Dodge, who went out Monday to try bike share for the first time at a station near their SoHo apartment.

They quickly figured how to dislodge a bike, taking out the key she received in the mail as an annual member, entering it into the dock and waiting for a light to turn green. Then she removed the bike, and within a few minutes, was testing the road on it. She pronounced it stable.

The program allows annual members to use bikes for 45 minutes at a time, and she said she planned to use them for her daily commute to the City University of New York at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.

As her husband watched, Ms. Fruehauf suddenly spun through a red light.

“It was just turning red,” explained Mr. Dodge, an artist who created a coffee table book about bicycles. “And she’s new on the bike. Otherwise, she’ll pay more attention.”

—Mara Gay, Joe Jackson and Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this article.

Write to Joshua Dawsey at

A version of this article appeared May 28, 2013, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Bike Share Gets Rolling Across City.