Bike sharing has worked in Oslo, it happened this year in Barcelona and it is about to start in Paris. Is taffic-heavy New York ready?
A planning group is providing 20 free bikes for a five-day experiment in green transportation, European style, and is hoping the answer is yes.
If the program is a hit, its backers will try to design a year-round bike-sharing system for New York.
"One of the major revelations for us is how real of a possibility this is," said David Haskell, executive director of the Forum for Urban Design, an organization of architects and planners that came up with the bike-sharing experiment.
The bikes have been lined up in a SoHo gallery called the Storefront For Art and Architecture since Saturday. Anyone can stop by and take one for a half-hour spin. Borrowing the bicycle is free, but cyclists must provide credit card information to ensure that they bring the bike back.
"I don't typically ride a bike around the city so I thought it would be interesting to just try it," said Sharon Jones, a lawyer who splits her time between New York City and Westport, Connecticut and who picked up a bike on Sunday. "I think that the city lends itself to actually riding a bike."
Wall displays at the Storefront describe bike sharing in eight European cities.
In Stockholm there are 1,000 bikes and 80 pick-up and drop-off stations for a population of 800,000. In Lyon there are 3,000 bike and 350 stations. Paris' bike-sharing system is scheduled to start Sunday with 10,000 bikes and 750 stations.
Typically, users pay a membership fee and then pick up a bike and drop it off at the same station or a different one.
Haskell said he hopes bike-sharing will eventually be adopted citywide in conjunction with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign for a greener city.
"The amount it would cost is peanuts compared to extending a subway line or adding another entire limited-stop bus network," he said.