New York City just unveiled its new "Citi Bikes," so named thanks to a $41 million (!) sponsorship from Citibank. Later this summer, the city will roll out hundreds of bike-sharing stations, where visitors, workers, and neighborhood residents will be able to borrow a bike for short-term rentals.
Citi Bike will use the same technology as Montreal's pioneering Bixi and Boston's new Hubway systems, albeit on a much larger scale, and without any public subsidies aside from the reserved use of on-street parking for bike stations. Over 400 stations will be scattered around the lower half of Manhattan Island, plus the neighborhoods around downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens — and that's just the first phase for this summer's inaugural season.
The big-bucks uber-corporate sponsorships from banking conglomerates like Citibank and MasterCard lend a hard-nosed capitalist stamp of approval to bike sharing's quasi-socialist business model. Here, for instance, is a photo, via Streetsblog, of three transportation policy wonks (from left: NYC Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, Alta Bikeshare CEO Alison Cohen, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan) and three billionaires (Mayor Michael Bloomberg, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit).
Lots of other cities have already pioneered the bikesharing idea (even Houston, Texas managed to implement a bikesharing network before New York, with a much smaller 3-station downtown network that opened this spring), but having a self-sustaining bikeshare network of this scale, with millions of dollars of sponsorship investment, really brings new prominence to the bikesharing concept.
In a few more years, bikesharing stations will be as much a part of the generic urban landscape as newsstands and bus shelters are today.