Residents young and old from several neighborhoods in Western Queens met in Long Island City Monday to gather more information about the bike share program slated to hit the neighborhood in late July.
The banking giant Citi will roll out the $40 million program, which places 10,000 bikes and 600 dock stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and LIC.
“The great thing about bike share is that it’s another transportation option for New Yorkers,” Department of Transportation representative Brooke McKenna said.
About seven community members were assigned to each of several tables with a map plotting out where the proposed 10 docking stations in LIC could go. Over the sounds of children dancing upstairs, each table’s DOT representative talked about locations, special features and answered questions about the program. Groups also discussed who would use the bikes.
“I tell avid cyclists that it’s great for a day like today when you want to leave your regular bike at home,” McKenna said, noting the rain.
“I imagine this will be huge with tourists,” LIC resident Paul Monnes said.
Other uses mentioned were for getting to work, replacing an extra long walk from subway stops to some residents’ homes with a bike ride and getting a short workout on a lunch break.
Participants will pay $95 a year to join the program, which will give them unlimited use of the bicycles for rides of up to 45 minutes. Daily and weekly memberships will also be available.
The bikes are for short trips, Brooke said. A high density of docking stations, about one every three blocks, will allow riders who are 16 and older to bike to a store, drop the bike off at a dock, shop and then rent another one for the trip back, for example.
“What happens if all the docks are full?” attendee Dan Bach asked.
In that case, the rider should go to the payment monitor at the docking station, which will tell riders where the closest alternative station is located. The user agreement stipulates that the rider should not lock a bike up with his or her own lock — and a $1,000 charge to one’s credit card for a lost bike may be a deterrent.
Also, Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share employees will work to make sure stations don’t get overloaded. The bike share company will hire 200 people to operate the city’s program.
“And they’re hiring right now,” McKenna said.
Members using the bikes for longer than 45 minutes will pay graduated fees to do so on their card.
The DOT is working with nonprofits and cultural groups to create a way for people without credit cards to use the system, according to McKenna. Alta Bicycle Share will split the profits with the city.
Citi Bikes are designed as “tanks,” McKenna said. Avid bike rider, Astoria resident and proponent of the program Steve Scofield thought the extra solid bikes might be heavy for commuters riding up hills or over the Queensboro Bridge.
Some other characteristics of the bikes are that the chains are covered to limit vandalism and the tires are filled with nitrogen to keep them inflated longer. Anytime they find something wrong, bikers can hit the button marked with a wrench icon back at the docking station.
The stations will be located on sidewalks, in the berm of a park, in “no standing” areas or in parking spaces, for example. Each station accommodates 15 to 60 bikes.
“No one is going to like it if you take away parking spots,” said Hunters Point resident Brent O’Leary , who overall approves of the program.
“One on the sidewalks could be an obstacle for pedestrian traffic, though,” Monnes said.
DOT-proposed spots are at: Hunters Point Ferry Terminal, two near Vernon Boulevard, Murray Playground, two near Jackson Avenue, 21st Street and 43rd Avenue, two near Queens Plaza North and one near 31st Street and Thomson Avenue.
Bach, Monnes, O’Leary and Scofield suggested additional locations outside of LIC in Woodside and Blissville.
“Lots of people want to expand to Woodside,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said.
During an earlier interview Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Citi, said that the company looks forward to the program expanding to other neighborhoods in Queens, including Sunnyside.
As for safety measures, the bikes will be branded between the handle bars with basic rules of the road. Also many other general rules are available at the docking stations. Each bike will be equipped with a self-generating light and a bell.
“Conceptually I love this, but I’m a little worried about people on bikes who don’t know what the hell they are doing,” Scofield said.
Some additional features to accompany the program includes an app for smart phones that shows where docking stations are, a key fob for annual members to swipe when checking out a bike and a website that can tell riders their carbon offset.
“This really is a great idea and we really want to embrace it,” Executive Director of Woodside on the Move Adrian Bordoni said.