By Zach Campbell
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Department of Transportation (DOT) employees and Community Board 2 residents spent hours on Thursday night huddled around enormous maps of their district in a side room at St. Francis College. Each one came with their own ideas, concerns and requests regarding the implementation of New York’s coming bicycle-sharing program.
DOT workers asked questions and gave surveys about how residents would use the program, whether for work, school, shopping or leisure. They requested that workshop participants point out, using black and red stickers on a blown-up map of the neighborhood, locations that they thought would and would not be useful for the program’s bicycle stations.
The initial program launch will involve 600 bicycle stations and close to 10,000 bikes, spread across parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The stations will be placed every three or four blocks, with larger facilities close to major sites and transit links. The program will be privately financed and implemented by Alta Bicycle Share, a company that also runs similar programs in Washington, D.C., and Boston.
The bicycles themselves are bulky, heavy and durable cruiser-style bikes with a small front rack for carrying bags. The system is designed for quick trips — for $90 per year, users will have unlimited rides lasting between 30 and 45 minutes. There will also be options for full-day rentals and weekly unlimited passes.
At the workshop, a Fort Greene resident commented on the proposed design of the bicycles, noting that the front rack is not conducive to carrying groceries. A Williamsburg resident who attends college in Downtown Brooklyn advocated for stations at every subway stop, particularly near the beleaguered G train — a proposal that would give many northern Brooklyn residents better access to the rest of the borough.
A resident of Concord Village came to the workshop solely to express his concern about a potential bicycle station outside his building. “There just isn’t enough space on the sidewalk there,” he said, putting a red sticker next to the proposed station on the group’s map. Without further discussion, the group moved on.
“We’ve already been to all the community boards about this, taking input,” said Seth Solomonow, a spokesperson for the DOT. “We can take all this data and put it together and come back to the community boards with it in a couple months.”
Many people voiced concern over the possibility of streets getting clogged with bicycling tourists, especially given the fact that, for hygienic and logistical reasons, helmets will not be provided with the bicycles.
“I bike into the city a lot, and it’s kind of an extreme sport,” said Trammell Hudson, who cycles to work daily. “People won’t know what they’ll be dealing with.”
DOT representatives explained the various safety measures that will be taken. Traffic rules specific to New York City will be written on the bicycles, along with helmet safety information and phone numbers to contact in the event of a malfunction.
According to survey data from a similar system implemented in London, bike-share riders are far less likely to crash when compared to cyclists on their own bicycles. The DOT worker running the workshop attributed this to design — “They aren’t built for speed,” he said, “they’re built to withstand heavy use.”
The DOT will compile all the workshop data with Alta and combine it with input from the community boards, elected officials, civic groups and input given through its website. The DOT hopeS to start the program this summer.