NYC Bike-Share Program Delayed Until Spring

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Friday that the city’s much-heralded bike share program will not begin until next spring, ending weeks of speculation about the program’s fate and dashing cyclists’ hopes of seeing the city’s newest public travel alternative this year.

Speaking on his morning radio show, Mr. Bloomberg attributed the decision to software problems, which he has cited repeatedly in recent weeks amid calls for a further explanation for the delay.

“The software doesn’t work. Duh,” the mayor said. “You’re not going to put it out until it does work.”

By the spring, he added, “hopefully the software will work.” The program was scheduled to begin last month.

Shortly after the mayor’s comments, the city released a more detailed timeline. In March 2013, the Transportation Department said, the program will begin with 7,000 bikes at 420 stations.

“New York City demands a world-class bike-share system, and we need to ensure that Citi Bike launches as flawlessly as New Yorkers expect on Day 1,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner, said in a statement. “The enthusiasm for this program continues to grow, and we look forward to bringing this affordable new transportation option to New Yorkers without cost to taxpayers.”

Under the original plan, the program, operated by Alta Bicycle Share, was to begin with a partial rollout this summer, then expand to a total of 10,000 bikes and 600 stations by summer 2013.

Though Alta’s contract called for it to begin the program in July, the city’s comments in recent days suggest a financial penalty for the company is unlikely.

The Transportation Department said Friday that “the timeline, agreed to by all parties, does not affect the Citi Bike sponsorship structure, which uses $41 million in private funding from Citi to underwrite the system for five years.”

Mayor Bloomberg added that Citi “couldn’t have been more helpful in postponing and getting it done.”

“The people that are putting up the money understand,” he said. “They’re probably not any happier about it than the people who want to rent the bikes or you and me or everybody else. But that’s the real world.”

Alta has encountered delays to its programs in other cities. Last week, the city of Chicago announced that its program would be delayed until next spring, after initially planning to begin in late summer. An Alta program in Chattanooga, Tenn., was also delayed because of software problems, though it began last month.

In a statement, Alison Cohen, the president of Alta, who has seldom spoken publicly in recent months, said that the company “continues to be committed to bringing the largest and best solar-powered bike-share system in the world to New York City. We recognize that New Yorkers are eagerly anticipating the launch of the bike-share system and we will deliver on that promise.”


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