Citi Bike registration begins
They say good things come to those who wait, and if Monday's opening registration for the Citi Bike is indication, the bicycle share program might be a huge hit.
More than 3,000 applicants signed up within the first few hours for annual membership for the service, which starts next month.
Many users expressed excitement of becoming a "founding member" on Facebook and Twitter, and bike advocacy groups said this is just the beginning.
"It seems like it's full steam ahead," Michael Murphy, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, said. "We feel like everywhere we go, people are clamoring for this to happen."
Murphy said several people in his organization became a "founding member," and interest is catching on. "What we think is going to happen is that you'll have the early adopters and then their friends, and it will grow," he said.
The program stalled twice over the last year, the first time after a programming glitch and the second after Superstorm Sandy damaged many of the bicycles and stands.
The city's Department of Transportation has been pushing the bike share for years as a commuting option. Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan touted similar programs in other cities and predicted it will be as successful in the Big Apple.
"Citi Bike will redefine what it means to get around New York City, and now is the time to upgrade to this fun, fast and safe transportation option," she said in a statement.
The program will first bring 6,000 bicycles to 300 stations across the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Crews currently are setting up the stations throughout Brooklyn, according to the commissioner.
An annual membership costs $95 plus tax -- about 26 cents per day -- and those members receive a key that will grant access to any bikes.
Nonmembers who own ATM or credit cards can rent a bike for 30 minutes at a rate of $9.95 a day.
The first 5,000 "founding members" received perks for the program, such as VIP passes to Transportation Alternatives' "Bike Home from Work Party" and $10 off bike helmets from Bern, Nutcase and Bontrager brands.
Not everyone, however, is happy with the program, especially bike enthusiasts in parts of the city that won't get access.
Carlos Deters, 33, of Astoria, was upset to hear that Queens Citi Bikes are tentative, and couldn't understand why the borough would be left out. "I feel like in Astoria we have a pretty big biking community," Deters said. "In this neighborhood it's a younger crowd and a little more bike savvy."
Some city officials are happy the program is coming together but urged the DOT to make sure users, pedestrians and motorists are safe.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is for the Department of Transportation to properly assess all the impacts that an ambitious program like this can have," City Councilman James Vacca, who chairs the Transportation Committee, said in a statement.
Comptroller John Liu agreed, and said the DOT should find a way to get riders to wear helmets, which is not mandated by state law.
"According to the Department of Transportation, in 97% of fatal bicycle accidents in New York City the rider was not wearing a helmet," Liu said in a statement.