First of all, hats off to NYC and their bicycle pioneer work. The summer of 2012 is when NYC rolls out its bike share program called "Citi Bike". It's called that because Citi Bank is sponsoring the program. The program is complete with celebrations, including a choreographed "bike ballet". Unfortunately thousands of the bikes are still in the Brooklyn Navy Yard awaiting more deliveries. The bike group, Transportation Alternatives, wants to roll out the bikes while there is warm weather.
The New York Times' J. David Goodman wrote on the bike share and the history of Transporation Alternatives, a bicycle advocacy group that has been so influential, it's officers have become officials in the City's transportation department.The article was published on August 12, 2012. Excerpts are used in this internet article.
Transportation Alternatives has 23 full time employees, 8,000 dues paying members and an email network of 40,000 plus. Their influence has been so strong that their members are in the government and they are part of the official policy of the City. They started 40 years ago in the early 70's. They made their public debut in a "traffic-snarling protest ride" down 5th Avenue in 1973. Within the year, their support grew to include persons such as Edward Koch, then a congressman, later Mayor and governor. When the oil crisis hit, biking grew with a surge. The Koch administration created bike lanes in the 1970's. sadly it was short lived as the 1980s saw a rebound in the City's economy and everyone resorted to driving. In fact, by the late 80's the City moved to ban bicycles from Midtown Manhattan.
Still, Transportation Alternatives continued to build support, staged protests, blocked traffic, and painted the roads where pedestrians had been killed by cars. Then it grew more in 1991 with some big grants. In the 2000's TA made huge gains when cycling took off again. Mark Gorton, a hedge fund manager made huge donations.
Then in 2007, Michael Bloombeg appointed TA's own Janette Sadik-Khan as head of NYC's transportation department. Together they have taken on a mandate to remake the streets. The transportation department has an aggressive pro-bike agenda. So far hundreds of new miles of bike lanes have appeared, parking spots eliminated, and some streets were narrowed to slow traffic.
Some New Yorkers don't care for T.A.'s close relationship with the department, including Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes. NBBL is worried about making the relationship between cars and bikes too antagonistic, thus with repercussions to the cyclists.
What's next for T.A.? They're pushing for more in-depth investigations of car accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, want tougher penalties for speeding or negligent drivers, wider bike paths on the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as curbing dangerous cycling.
If the bike share program is embraced by the City, it may just be the most enduring symbol of Mayor Bloomberg's policies.
Each city and town across the nation should look to TA's influence and adopt pro-cycling groups for their area. We need more bike lanes. Hats off to NYC for such a bold endeavor. I noticed tons of cyclists in the City when I was there in 2010.