As the city prepares to kick off its bike sharing program later this month, it might want to take a cue from Washington, D.C., as the nation's capital is home to North America's first bike share program, which, despite a slightly bumpy start, is now in high gear. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
On any given day, Robert Stillwell can be seen cutting through capital gridlock on a bright red bike.
"I use it to kind of get back and forth between places," he said. "It's faster than the metro, a hell of a lot cheaper than a cab."
Stillwell is a member of Capital Bikeshare, a bike sharing program that launched in the nation's capital nearly three years ago. It is beginning to change the way people commute to work.
"We've had over four million rides," said Chris Holben of the District Department of Transportation. "We have about 22,000 members, and I would say almost 300,000 day users have used the system since we launched."
By many accounts, the program, which is operated by the same company that runs New York's, has been a success. In less than three years, it has grown from 115 stations to 221 and counting. Cyclists pay either $7 for a single-day membership or $75 for the entire year.
The D.C. program had its share of bumps in the beginning. Initially, some residents complained about where the city put some of the bike share stations, while others really didn't know what to make of the clunky bikes.
Some of those initial skeptics, though, are now fans.
The problems now are ones of demand. During the day, returning a bike or renting one can be a challenge, depending on the neighborhood.
"I think one of the complaints of riders is, 'It would be great, but I wish there were a station closer to me,'" said Alex Block of Downtown D.C. BID.
There's also the issue of helmets. Riders are not required to wear one.
"I don't have a helmet, and I recently fell off my bike," said Brooke Birkey, a Capital Bikeshare user.
Officials said there have been no fatalities but there have been a handful of serious injuries, so they're considering installing helmet rental kiosks alongside the bike-sharing stations.
"It'd be a helmet vending machine, where ideally, you could take out a helmet, return it and just pay a very small fee," Holben said.
For now, officials are trying to entice riders to buy discounted helmets as cycling switches into high gear in the nation's capital.