City Council Leaders Support Bike-Share After Procedural Disagreement

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A demonstration Bixi bike-sharing bicycle sits in Union Square in 2009. An official announcement about New York City's bike-share program is expected this week.

New York City’s bike-share plans are poised to make a big leap this week, with the city expected to select the winner of the contract to operate the system very soon, according to Transportation Nation. The announcement will come after top City Council leaders have signaled that they back bike-share.

“We support the bike share program for New York City,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Land Use Committee Chair Leroy Comrie in an e-mail statement to Streetsblog. “We think it’s an important amenity that will improve the lives of New Yorkers and tourists.”

Michael Grynbaum reported in the New York Times on Friday that the council and City Hall recently resolved a dispute over whether the plans for bike-share went through the proper procedural steps, in particular a vote in the City Council. The arrangement they reached calls for oversight hearings on the program in the council, rather than a vote. The council’s press office did not provide any details about which committee would hold those hearings or when they might take place.

The question at issue was whether bike-sharing is a franchise, a kind of contract the city makes with a private firm that requires legislative authority before a competitive bidding process can start. The Council maintains that the administration should have considered bike-share a franchise, Quinn and Comrie said, adding that they “appreciate the improvements to the process that the administration has agreed to.”

Also helping build momentum is the successful launch of Boston’s Hubway bike-share system. Boston hoped to sell 2,000 annual memberships by Thanksgiving according to the Boston Globe, but had already topped 2,300 subscribers by the end of August, after only one month of operation. Hubway’s ridership has so far eclipsed that of similarly-sized systems in Minneapolis and Denver, and the bulk of complaints are from people who want to see the system expanded into their neighborhood. As with all American bike-sharing systems, theft and vandalism have not been problems in Boston.

The success of bike-sharing in other American cities has only strengthened the impression that NYC has some catching up to do. As Comrie told the Times, “No one is against bike-share — it’s something that every major city across the world is adopting and embracing.”