I'm still getting used to the fact that New York City, once a global leader, has fallen so far behind other cities in keeping up with the times. On a trip to Copenhagen in 1995, I marveled at that city's system of public bikesharing, and many of you live in places where that's old hat; but I'm still excited to see that New York is finally getting something similar in a couple of months.
Like many other things in New York, it won't be free. Citi Bike is something like ZipCar for bicycles, though the pricing model is a bit different: You pay a $95 annual fee and then get as many 45-minute bike rides as you can take, from station to station, throughout predetermined locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Another difference with Citi Bike is that tourists can take advantage of the program by paying for 24-hour access or 7-day access (30-minute riding intervals). Thus far the map looks pretty comprehensive for downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, though some of these may change:
"Bike share systems only work when bikes are used and re-docked so that others can use them," Citi Bike writes, explaining why overages are charged if you exceed the 45-minute limit. You can get around this on longer trips by relaying from station to station, but NYC is geographically small enough that I can't see myself having to do that often.
I'm curious as to how they'd work out the logistics of keeping each bike station balanced between having enough supply and enough empty slots to dock incoming bicycles; there's no word on how they plan to solve the former, but Citi Bike has solved the latter as follows: Should you get to your destination station and find it full, a screen at the station awards you a 15-minute credit and directs you to the nearest station with an empty slot. The stations appear close enough that this will hopefully not be a hassle.
What will be a hassle is if you're unattentive enough to have the bike stolen out from under you; that will incur a $1,000 fine. Ouch.
Citi Bike launches this July with 10,000 bikes in 600 locations. (And as the name implies, yep, it's sponsored by the bank.)