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New York’s biggest transit launch in a century makes its debut today

May 27, 2013 12:42 pm

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The new Citibike bike sharing program could potentially change how New Yorkers commute and attempts to redraw their daily relationships with the city, long term. Generational changes may be favoring this trend, even if this specific attempt does not succeed fully.

— Rafat Ali

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New York became the latest city to sign up to bike-sharing Monday, with the launch of a scheme that has been welcomed by cycle enthusiasts but met with some protests from residents

The privately-funded Citi Bike scheme saw 6,000 branded bikes docked at 330 stations across Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn on Memorial Day.

Launching the programme, Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the project as a “big win” for New York.

“It’s going to give New Yorkers another way to get around town by extending connectivity from subway and bus stops. It’s also going to be great for our millions of visitors, allowing them another way to see the city, including making our incredible waterfront more accessible,” he added.

As of Monday’s launch day, around 17,500 people had signed up to use the bikes. It comes at an annual membership of $95.

The scheme follows similar bike-sharing programmes in Paris and London. The New York scheme is the largest in operation in the US.

Their introduction has not been without the odd bump in the road, however. Some Manhattan residents have complained about docks being placed outside their apartment blocks. In the weeks running up to the launch, public meetings heard complaints that the docks could prove to be a hazard by getting in the way of fire trucks. Others have complained that they eat into precious car-parking space.

On Monday, pockets of protest could be found among the riders.

In the Manhattan neighborhood of Soho, a small group demonstrated at a docking station placed at the site of a small city park once reserved for public art works.

Minerva Durham, 74, treasurer of The Friends of Petrosino Square, said: “I have no concern over whether their programme is successful or not. I favour bicycles, but not at the expense of parks and also not the history of Soho.”

Carl Rosenstein, director of The Puffin Room gallery in Soho also opposes the bike share station: “We don’t have a department of transportation, we have a department of tyranny. We want the bikes moved across the street.”

Meanwhile police reported that not all of the bike users had signed up for the scheme, with one woman just helping herself to a bike. Officers say the thief struck Sunday night as workers unloaded bikes at 25th Street and Second Avenue.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

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