Citi Bike set to roll in May; Some say No to Petrosino site

BY ALAN KRAWITZ  |  First announced back in September 2011, Citi Bike, New York City’s first large-scale, bike-sharing system, is set to hit the streets next month. With 5,500 bikes and nearly 300 stations across parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, it will be North America’s largest bike-share program.

The program will provide anyone 16 years and older with access 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, to rental bikes with a variety of rental options from daily and weekly to yearly. Riders basically unlock a bike at one station, ride and then return the bike at any other station in the system.

To start, rates will run from $10 daily and $25 weekly to $95 for annual membership. The pricing is geared to keep most trips short, ranging from 30 to 45 minutes, with overtime fees for rides that exceed certain time limits. The idea is to keep many bikes available with little wait time at docks.

The program, marketed as a convenient and inexpensive solution for quick trips around the city, is being operated by NYC Bike Share, which has said it will eventually expand the program to more than 10,000 bikes at 600 stations around the city.

Further, the city says the program is not being funded by taxpayer money but rather via sponsorship agreements with both Citi Bank and MasterCard. The administration claims the entire program’s operations will be covered by the sponsorships and, once the system launches, revenue generated by users. The city also says it expects the program to turn a profit, which will be split between the city and NYC Bike Share.

NYC Bike Share is a subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share, which operates successful bike-share programs internationally, as well as in Washington, D.C., Boston, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, among others.

The city’s Department of Transportation says it conducted an extensive public input process within the past year, including community planning workshops and hundreds of meetings with business leaders and residents on the siting of neighborhood bike docks. But not everyone is in agreement on placement of the docking stations.

Georgette Fleischer, founder of Friends of Petrosino Square, is leading the opposition to a proposed 43-dock bike-share station that would take up a “No Parking Anytime” lane on Cleveland Place, just north of Kenmare St.

Fleischer, in an e-mail, said that the Petrosino Square location, at the intersection of Spring, Kenmare and Lafayette Sts., is one of four locations that Community Board 2 and local elected officials identified in resolutions and letters to D.O.T. this past year as being the most dangerous.

“The community, Fire Department, and local business owners have all pleaded with D.O.T. to re-site the bike-share station,” Fleischer said. “There have been dozens of appearances in protest at C.B. 2’s full board on March 21, e-mailed letters, and calls to C.B. 2 and elected officials, including Margaret Chin’s office, Senator Squadron’s office and Borough President Stringer’s office.”

Fleischer also noted several recent traffic fatalities half a mile to the east and west. Those fatalities included Dashane Santana, who was struck by an SUV on Jan. 13, 2012, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, as well as Jessica Dworkin, who was riding a kick scooter when she was killed by a truck on Aug. 27, 2012, on Sixth Ave. at Houston St.

“We have suggested that D.O.T. instead place the station in the current parking spots on the east side of Lafayette just north of Spring St.,” she said, adding that the street is wider there.

She also said that site “would not interfere with local business deliveries, an N.Y.U. bus stop or wheelchair access, and it would be only steps from the original D.O.T. siting in our art installation space in the north triangle of Petrosino Park.”

Calls to D.O.T. seeking comment on the Petrosino Square dock were not returned by press time.

But Caroline Samponaro, a senior director for Transportation Alternatives, said that recent press reports have mischaracterized the Petrosino Square issue.

“Regarding the Petrosino Square question, you can see that it’s not in Petrosino Square. It’s across the street,” Samponaro said. “That’s a great location for a station and it grew from input from residents and businesses.”

She added that her experience has been that demand for stations far exceeds any concerns.

“Poll data of public opinion and the fact that every community board supports the plan confirms majority support,” Samponaro said.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, admitted that some in the community refer to him as a “NIMBY” (not in my backyard). But, he said, he is not opposed to the idea of the bike-share but has issues with some of the proposed locations and, in particular, with Petrosino Square.

Sweeney called Cleveland Place the “bottleneck for northbound traffic coming off the Brooklyn Bridge and also for northbound traffic off the Williamsburg Bridge.”

He added that even D.O.T. has acknowledged how busy the area is since there are “No Parking Anytime” signs there.

“If you can’t park a car there due to the restrictions, how are you going to put a bike dock there?” Sweeney asked. “D.O.T. is thumbing their nose at the community.”

Sweeney explained that moving the dock up a few feet would be much better. He said the agency only listens to the “spandex Nazis,” and is being led around by bicycle activists.

However, Ian Dutton, a former C.B. 2 member and Soho resident who now lives in Brooklyn, supports the Petrosino dock site.

“Some concerns were that the bike dock, which has a narrower footprint than a parked delivery truck, would be a traffic obstruction, slowing vehicles and making fire access challenging,” Dutton noted.

But he asserted of the plan’s opponents, “There is little logic in their arguments. The reality is that no one will notice a difference compared to the current situation with cars and trucks parked right where the bike rack will soon bloom.”

David Gruber, C.B. 2 chairperson, admitted there are issues with some of the locations.

“We want D.O.T. to recognize problems with certain streets and pedestrian safety,” he said. “We want D.O.T. to recognize those concerns and make minor adjustments as to placements of some of the docks.”

Gruber called placement of a dock on Cleveland Place “troublesome to many people.” But, he said, “It should be a simple matter to relocate that dock nearby but also in a more appropriate location.”

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