NYC Looks to Pop a Wheelie

Event: Lecture, part of the New York Bike Share Project symposium and charrette
Location: Storefront for Art and Architecture, 07.09.07
Speaker: Richard Grasso — Clear Channel Adshel
Organizers: Storefront for Art and Architecture; Forum for Urban Design

Bike Wheel

Courtesy Storefront for Art and Architecture

While the majority of attendees at a conference on bike sharing endorsed the concept for NYC, the most hotly debated element of the initiative was the idea of using advertising on the bikes and their docking stations to help underwrite the program. Clear Channel Adshel became a supporter of similar shares in Barcelona, Stockholm, and Oslo as an extension of their advertising program, which uses street furniture as a medium. David Haskell, executive director of Forum for Urban Design, said the symposium was planned to educate the public about the potential benefits of bike share, not to determine “what the ratio of advertising to public financing might be.”

For those familiar with the idea of point-to-point, subscription-driven car rental operations (like Zipcar), bike share is its two-wheeled equivalent. But unlike the Zipcar concept — a convenience service for daytrips and errands — bike share is focused on providing everyday transportation options. Commuters sign up online to participate and swipe a membership card to sign out each bike, which may be used for as low as $.50 per trip. The bicycles, which will be available at strategically located docking stations, are not high performance cycles. Each bike is constructed for stability. “It’s not a Porsche; it’s been tested for ease of use,” said Clear Channel Adshel executive Richard Grasso.

Implementing a transportation system that would improve public health at the same time seems like a natural fit for this city. And discussions about bike share’s feasibility in NYC are especially timely, given recent debate about congestion pricing and potential subway overcrowding. But residents, like myself, who have tried the bike share systems available in European cities, may be left wondering how the concept will translate to New York. In particular, where will bike share docking stations be located, given existing scarcity of excess sidewalk and parking space? Will riders face problems in a city already troubled by unruly drivers and a lack of dedicated bike lanes? Though the reality of bike sharing in NYC may be in the far future, Washington, D.C. should be able to provide answers and inspiration — they will be the first Big 10 U.S. city to implement the system, effective within the next few months.

More information on the bike sharing program can be found at The New York Bike-Share Project website. David Haskell contributed an opinion piece on July 18 to the New York Times about the program. Click “The Path of Least Congestion” to read the full article.