Bike sharing rolls into the Big Apple

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The nation’s largest bike sharing program launched on Monday in New York City where Citi Bike kicked off with 6,000 bikes at 300 stations.

Citi Bike station before arrival of bikes

Citi Bike station before arrival of bikes

The new program instantly dwarfed the Washington DC metro area’s Capital BikeShare, which had been the biggest bike sharing operation in the US since October 2010.

Even as Citi Bike grows to an expected 10,000 bikes docked at 600 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, it still won’t rival the Paris Velib, which has grown to 18,000 bikes at 1,200 stations since it launched in 2007.

The Citi Bike name comes from the project’s lead sponsor, Citigroup Inc. The financial services firm gets to post advertising at all the bike stations and run other membership promos.

Citi Bike is owned by NYC Bike Share, a subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share, the same firm that will operate the Puget Sound Bike Share system. That bike sharing system is looking for a spring 2014 launch date with a roll-out of 500 bicycles at 50 stations.

Those first bikes will be places in the downtown core, south Lake Union, the University District, Sandpoint and part of Capitol Hill. It will expand into Lower Queen Anne, Fremont, and South of Downtown

Last week,the Puget Sound Regional Council issued a $1 million federal grant to the city of Seattle to pay for bike and helmet stations. That combines with a $750,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation. The program is still seeking a title sponsor (like Citigroup in New York), whose corporate name would be part of the system.

The New York City launch was available only to those who pay $95 a year for an annual membership. They can ride for 45 minutes whenever they want free of charge. Daily and weekly memberships will be available beginning next week.

The first day went off without many problems. About 200 annual members couldn’t use the bikes because they hadn’t received their membership cards yet.

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