By Laura Shin Small groups of Upper West Side residents recently huddled around maps of their neighborhood and discussed where they believed would be the best locations for bike stations, hitting city streets this July with the launch of the NYC Bike Share program. "I think the bike share is wonderful and way overdue," said Michael Rosenthal, a cyclist of 46 years who attended the planning workshop. Announced last September, NYC Bike Share will bring 600 stations and 10,000 bikes to Manhattan and Brooklyn. Users will be able to pick up a bike from any of the self-service stations, ride it around and return it to any station within 24 hours. "Let's say you take the subway to work. It's a beautiful day out and you want to ride a bike back home. With Bike Share, you can do that," Nina Haiman, a city Department of Transportation (DOT) representative, said at the workshop. The program will be run by Alta Bicycle Share and funded entirely by user fees and private sponsors. Since the program's announcement, DOT and Alta have hosted numerous demonstrations and planning workshops around the city. Each community board included in the bike share program had its own workshop where community members were invited to offer their input on which sidewalks or streets they would like to see a bike station. The Upper West Side Community Planning Workshop was the last of 13 workshops. Alison Cohen, president of Alta, said there are many reasons why New York is a great city for a bike share. "There are tons of opportunities to shave minutes off of short commutes that are not well connected by public transit, such as the crosstown trip in Manhattan," she said. "The city is flat and densely populated, and most people don't have space in their apartments to store bikes," she added. NYC Bike Share will offer annual, weekly and 24-hour memberships. No matter which you choose, the first 45 minutes of every trip is free, Haiman said. After your 45 minutes are up, you will be charged a rate based on the type of membership. Scott Gastel, a DOT spokesman, said the most common question New Yorkers ask is what happens when there are no bicycles available at a station. The station kiosks will offer real-time availability of bikes at nearby stations, Gastel said. Bike Share's website and smart phone app will also offer real-time information on bike and station availability. One concern raised at the workshop was the fact that Bike Share would not offer helmets. "I'm worried it might encourage people to ride without helmets," said Rosenthal, who added that he might not be alive today if it weren't for helmets. Haiman explained that there is currently no safe, hygienic way to offer shared helmets, but that Bike Share will strongly encourage riders to wear helmets and refer them to nearby bike shops where they can buy one. Bike Share will cover Manhattan up to 79th Street and reach into parts of Brooklyn. If it is successful, it will expand to other parts of the city, Haiman said. And while the planning process for choosing locations has been very thorough, the stations can be easily moved if a location doesn't work out, Haiman said. The solar-powered stations only take 20 minutes to install and require no digging or roadwork. As for the bikes, they will have step-through frames, three speeds, front and rear LED lights that are constantly on for safety and an adjustable seat. New Yorkers can check out the bikes at an open house hosted by the DOT May 5 at the Grand Central Library from 2-4 p.m. For more bike coverage visit nypress.com.
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