NEW YORK – The nation’s biggest bicycle-sharing program got rolling Monday, as thousands of New Yorkers got their first chance to ride a network billed as a new form of public transit in a city known for it.
Suraf Asgedom pedaled along a lower Manhattan street on one of the royal-blue, quick-rental bikes, headed for a gourmet supermarket that’s usually a 25-minute walk from his apartment. The medical executive doesn’t own a bicycle because it’s a hassle to haul one downstairs, find a place to lock it up on the street and worry about it, he said.
This just makes it much more convenient, said Asgedom, 39, who plans to use the bike system to get to work at a downtown hospital.
The privately financed program – called Citi Bike, after lead sponsor Citigroup Inc. – kicked off with 6,000 bikes at more than 300 stations. Plans call for expanding it to 10,000 bikes docked at 600 places in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Riders now can unlock the three-gear, cruising-style bikes from any station, take them for 45-minute rides and return them to any rack.
We now have an entirely new transportation network without spending any taxpayer money, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference.
Fifteen thousand people already have signed up for New York’s program.
Citi Bike subscribers pay a $95 annual fee for unlimited rides of 45 minutes. Starting Sunday, riders also will be able to buy a 24-hour pass for about $10 and a seven-day pass for $25.
The usage time is logged when a bicycle is returned to a dock, with additional charges if the bikes have been out past the allotted time.