20 September 2011

Sneak Peek... Test Riding the NYC Bike Share!

This past weekend a spur of the moment visit to DUMBO proved to be VERY eventful with tasty treats at The Brooklyn Local, the opening of Jane's Carousel AND.... a demo of the newly announced NYC Bike Share system launching in Summer 2012!!!

Portland, Oregon-based Alta Bicycle Share, who will be operating the NYC Bike Share, was at the Manhattan Bridge Archway in DUMBO last Saturday with a sampling of their other successful city bike share bicycles from DC, Boston, Minneapolis, Toronto, Montreal, Melbourne, and London. The NYC DOT has not released the official look (colour/graphics) of the NYC bicycle as of yet, but the overall design/style/components will resemble other Alta models. These bikes are really sturdy machines with lots of great components built-in (and theft proof) and was totally excited to see for myself how the Toronto Bixi could handle DUMBO's cobble stone streets...
For starters, what to do with my purse? Easy! The bikes have these front racks with a built-in bungee cord which you can adjust using those little nubs. It was a perfect fit for my purse -- but not set up to bring home a load of groceries. Nor is there a rear rack - well at least currently!
While details have not been finalized, the NYC Bike Share (like other Alta city bike share systems) will just require a credit card which you can pay-as-you-go (for something like $6 a day) OR get an annual membership (for approx. $100) which would give you a key/card - that red thing above - and allow you to access any bike for 30-45 minutes easy-peasy. You'd just have to insert your key and the docking station releases the bike which you slide out and ride off -- and be just be charged for additional time.

Oh, and note those little red hexagons icons with a wrench... upon swiping your key and realizing you got a bike in need of a maintenance check of any kind you simply press the button on the docking station and it lets the system operators know it can be fixed -- it also keeps the bike locked into the docking station/rack so that someone else won't come along and get the pleasure of borrowing a problematic bike! In general, I was told at the demo that all the bikes get a maintenance about check every 5 weeks.
The moment I hopped onto the bike I totally felt like I was on a motorcycle - more then a bicycle! The handle bars had a lot to do with that -- they are wide and really easy to handle. It is also designed in such a way that it feels like you have a dashboard in front of you with a bell (!) on the left side and 3-gear (internal hub) shifters on the right side. The brakes could have been a little more responsive, but they did a fine job.

The bikes are fully loaded with features that make cycling in the city easy rain or shine... fenders, chain guard, grippy pedals for all types of shoes, skirt guard, and really wide knobby tires that could handle our cities largest pot holes with lovely reflective sidewalls! I've also heard that they'll have integrated front and rear lights - serious essentials. 
I have to say, it was a smooth ride. Next time I'd like to have more time and test ride the bike over the Manhattan Bridge - but the three gears seem to give you a good range even if most of the city is flat as a pancake. If you missed last Saturday's DUMBO demo, there are many more demonstrations, open houses and workshops scheduled to take place this fall so you can test them out yourself!

More about the system via NYCityBikeShare.com...
NYC Bike Share will consist of 600 stations, 10,000 bikes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, potentially stretching to Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. It will be privately sponsored, privately launched and privately operated, with no public funding.
It’s more than just a different way to get to work. 54% of all trips New Yorkers make are less than two miles. Bike sharing is a great mobility choice for short trips that are too far to walk, but too short for a cab or subway ride.
The idea is really to help you out from point A to B. The bikes do not come with a lock which means you'd have to find a docking station to both pick up and drop off the bike -- hence the idea that there will be 600 stations in the city and the DOT is taking your suggestion for station locations. While there will be no doubt some growing pains associated with such a large scale addition to the city streets -- I CAN NOT WAIT for more NYers to open their eyes to the world on two wheels...

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