Bike share programs, already frequenting many European cities, are finally beginning to take root on our side of the pond.
Manhattan is officially launching its bike share program in summer 2011. It's reported that ~600 bike stations will be made available for rent south of 60th street, and like other bike share programs of its kind, riders will be able to purchase daily, weekly or annual memberships. Although, one distinctive feature of the Manhattan program is that it will be privately funded, and will not rely on any taxpayer money or federal funding.
There are multiple private companies competing for their system to be selected;
---> Alta Bicycle Share (based in Portland, Oregon) and B-Cycle (owned by Wisconsin bicycle maker Trek) would have bikes which can only be locked in their bike racks. Bikes would cost substantially less than the bike racks, making the replacement of stolen bikes much cheaper and simpler. Riders would be able to rent a bike by credit card payment.
----> BKNYC, on the other hand, would operate a little differently. Its bicycles, developed by the German railroad company Deutsche Bahn (DB), could be locked to any fixed structure, and its bikes could be unlocked by calling a phone number and entering a code.
Any of these programs, however, will initially be faced with specific challenges. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges will be actually finding the space for bike racks. Space in the city can sometimes be an oxymoron, which is a problem many people can identify with...
Powering electronic bike racks may potentially be an issue as well. They wouldn't be able to rely on the city's power grid, so they would have to be powered by solar panels or some other power source.
The winner of the program will sign a 5-year contract and will create the design for the ~10,000 bikes. Each bike will be 3-speed, and be equipped with a basket (a la francais) and a GPS system.
With Manhattan's program to be launched this summer, Brooklyn is following suit and has announced its launch of a bike share program within the next couple of years, which only means that cities around the US will hopefully be quick to follow.