If a recent report from the Department of City Planning is any indication, the prospect of bike sharing in NYC seems to be a real one. The 142-page report thoroughly examines existing bike sharing programs, and explores opportunities and strategies for implementing a system right here in NYC.
Still, with all of its coverage, the report omitted one huge benefit that a bike sharing program may provide: an increase in bike flocks.
Bike flocks—large groups of cyclists‑‑‑would provide a much needed presence during this period of cycling transition. Although hundreds of bike lanes have been created in recent years, it does not yet feel as if the bicycle is a respected member of the street community. One reason for this: the lack of large groups of riders. With the exception of periodic Critical Mass rides, cyclists are often isolated street members, and rarely do you see a group of more than 5 or 6 riders at a time. Compare this with many European cities where large flocks of cyclists demand to be taken seriously.
A larger community of cyclists in NYC will instantly bring about more respect and attention. It will decrease the amount of automobiles that use bikeways as parking spaces. It will force drivers—everybody, actually—to be more aware, and acclimate them to sharing the road with cyclists. It will increase the pressure on politicians to pass bicycle-friendly legislation (like the Bicycle Access Bill). Ultimately, it will result in a friendlier, safer bicycle environment, as well as more vibrant streets.Of course, there will be hiccups along the way, and there are many practical questions that have need to be addressed. Still, the idea of a New York City bike share program is good news for anybody in favor of friendlier streets.