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The Lowdown on the DOT's City-Wide Bike Share

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Two breathless weeks have passed since urban super heroine and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan cozied up to the Flatiron Building to announce NYC's Bike Share. Since then, the rumors have been flying and the interwebs have been buzzing (proof is in the anonymous, enthusiastic Tumblr proclaiming "fuck yeah!" about the hot-button issue). And DOT made the smart and classy move of getting we-the-people excited and involved fast, opening up the floor for public suggestions about locations for imminent bike stations.

This level of democracy might seem like a bit much to New Yorkers, who are used to vilifying DOT heads like Sadik-Khan for precisely the opposite tactic. Is the call for station suggestions fruitless busywork created by the faux-ocracy to keep things quieter on the sidelines?

Word to the wise: people making station location suggestions should think carefully about their choices as they could make for some entertaining citizen-to-citizen brawls in the not-so-distant future when the project planning reaches the public review and approval phase.

As for the stations themselves, they will be self-service, solar-powered and operated 24/7/365. As with bus shelters, the bikes operator is in charge of regular maintenance of the stations and bikes. The station design is modular; each module is set of bike parking spots, which can be set up in 30 minutes. The modules can be added to or subtracted from, based on use and need. To break it down: this means that if a station seems under or overused, the size can be changed. The original setup of stations is far from permanent.

To help with strategic decision-making, each bike will have GPS installed, to keep track of where it is coming from and going to. The GPS will also help prevent certain peak-hour, peak-location stations from being filled to capacity as bikes are dropped off, or becoming empty as all the bikes are taken.

DOT has yet to declare a strategy to combat possible negative peak-use effects, but is looking at the solutions used by other cities. In London, trucks are used to redistribute bikes from full stations in the city center to empty ones at the periphery after the morning rush, and vice versa in the evening.

New York is considering following London’s lead in other ways; currently the system is looking for a title sponsor, like Barclays in London. Contenders have yet to be announced, so ready your RFPs. In that same vein, insiders tell us that some stations are planned for public housing complexes, and the city is looking for sponsors to underwrite the rental cost for those areas. Bikes and equity! It's a new era in New York!

As the rumor mill knows and DOT has confirmed, the bike share will launch in 2012 only in Manhattan below 79th Street and in northwest Brooklyn, extending out to parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant. But before we get too crabby, DOT is quick to say that this is just the pilot and that, pending its success, the bike share will quickly grow to the other boroughs, joining the ranks of Miami, Melbourne, Madison, half of Europe and basically every city where they speak French. In the meantime, nous attendons avec impatience l'arrivée des vélos.

· New York City Bike Share [NYCDOT]