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Queens Chronicle

Queens misses out on bike share plan

Borough riders must wait ’til 2013 at least, despite Citi sponsorship

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Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:49 am, Thu May 17, 2012.

Banking giant Citi will be sponsoring the city’s bike share program when it begins in July, with the bank’s logo going on the bicycles and the docking stations where they can be rented.

Mayor Bloomberg, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, other officials and Citi CEO Vikram Pandit announced the deal today at City Hall Plaza. The bicycles will be rolling advertisements for the company, also known as Citigroup or Citibank, whose logo will appear on the front and sides of each one. The $41 million program, which officials said will cost taxpayers nothing, is being called “Citi Bike.”

But even though Citi’s name is on the tallest building in Queens, One Court Square in Long Island City, as well as the Mets’ home at Citi Field, people will not be able to get Citi bikes at either location, at least not at first. The bike share program will only be available in Manhattan and Brooklyn when it is launched.

Sadik-Khan said the program will be brought to Long Island City at some point, but she did not say when.

Reached after the announcement, a spokesman for bicycle and public transit advocates Transportation Alternatives said the important thing is that the program will be launched soon. The spokesman, Michael Murphy, said it is not disappointing that Queens won’t be included at first, and noted that the city has been working with community organizations on where to locate the docking stations, a process that takes time.

“The commissioner said there will be a Long Island City component,” Murphy said. “She didn’t give a timeline for that. ... It’s nice to know it will be coming to Queens, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Citi, said the bikes will be available in LIC sometime next year, and that the company looks forward to the program expanding to other neighborhoods in Queens, including Sunnyside.

The city held 90 forums and other public events on where to locate the docking stations, as well as another 150 meetings with certain stakeholders. They will be sited on streets, sidewalks, public plazas “and other locations suggested through the community process,” the city said.

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. Members using them for a longer time will pay graduated fees to do so. Daily and weekly memberships will also be available. Participants have to be at least 16 years old. They will borrow the bicycles from and return them to the stations, which each will hold between 15 and 60 of them.

“The idea behind bike share is simple: give people one more way to get around town,” Bloomberg said in announcing the program. “We’re able to create this new option at no cost to taxpayers because of the commitment of an institution with a 200 years tradition in New York: Citigroup. The new Citi Bikes will be an affordable, entirely new, 24/7 transportation network that will help New Yorkers get where they’re going faster.When the walk seems a little far, New Yorkers can choose to skip the hike, and take a bike.”

“New York has been Citi’s home for 200 years, and throughout our history, we have been proud to work with the City on innovative ideas that contribute to its progress,” Pandit said. “Citi Bike, which will add a new, sustainable option to help people navigate the city, is the latest embodiment of that. We recognized an opportunity to play a meaningful role in an initiative that will enhance the lives of New Yorkers and become a unique part of New York City’s urban landscape, and we are proud to help bring it to life.”

The system will be operated by Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share, which will split the profits with the city. MasterCard will be the “exclusive payment sponsor,” the city said.

The lack of Citi bikes in Queens marks the second time the borough was passed over as the program was developed. Worksman Cycles of Ozone Park, the only remaining bicycle manufacturer in the United States, had put in a bid to make the bikes, but was rejected, raising the ire of area officials who said the contract would have meant more jobs for Queens.

UPDATE: The day after this story was published, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) announced that Long Island City will be included in the first phase of the bike share program after all. Van Bramer said he had "worked with" the DOT to ensure Queens was included. LIC will get 10 of the docking stations housing the bicycles.

"The expansion of New York City’s Bike Share program into Western Queens will give both tourists and our local residents the ability to get around parts of our great neighborhood in an environmentally friendly and convenient way,” Van Bramer said in a prepared statement issued May 11. “I want to thank the Department of Transportation for working with my office to make sure that Queens is a part of Phase 1 of Bike Share. The 10 proposed locations will not only facilitate commuters into and out of Long Island City but it will also attract new visitors to all the fantastic cultural and culinary options the neighborhood has to offer.”

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