BY NATALIE O’NEILL
Biking in Brooklyn is about to go Euro — and the borough’s elected officials are prepared for an all-out battle over where the coveted-but-contentious “bike share stations” should sprout.
On Wednesday, the city unveiled plans for the country’s largest bike share program — a cheap two-wheel rental initiative — that will dole out more than 10,000 bikes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Kiosks like those in Paris and other alleged world capitals will be built at more than 600 locations, offering commuters bikes for “short trips” — but the most controversial part of the program has not yet been decided: where exactly the stations will go and how many will be allocated to Brooklyn.
For now, stations appear likely in Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant by next summer.
“We expect to be in those neighborhoods — plus more,” said Alison Cohen, the president of Alta Bicycle Share, the company selected this week by the city to run the program.
Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) hailed the plan, and said she’s vying for a several spots — including at Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, in Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope and at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights.
The program works like this: Participants buy yearly passes for about $100. They are then able to use the bikes as often as they want — for trips up 45 minutes — before returning them to any station. A shorter-term membership will be offered, too, although details have not yet been hammered out.
Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan noted that the city will first focus on commuter hubs in dense areas.
“It’s a great way to connect to the ferry, train or subway,” she said.
But Brooklynites generally have longer commutes than Manhattanites, and the 45-minute rental allotment will only work if kiosks are well located.
A cyclist from Park Slope, for example, would not be able to pedal into the city and back in the three-quarter-hour allotment. Instead, she would need to drop off a bike and pick up a new one for the return trip.
At the announcement in Manhattan on Wednesday, bike-friendly Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) noted that there will be “challenges” about choosing the right locations, but that the city has promised him that it will work with communities to pinpoint the best spots for kiosks.
The bike stations themselves will be solar-powered, sponsor-funded and will cost taxpayers nothing, according to the city. The sturdy bikes are 45-pound cruisers — that are more functional than fun, partly to combat vandals — and will feature global position devices and lights.
No helmets are provided.
©2011 Community News Group
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