The Real Story Behind NYC's Bike Share Coup

Neighborhoods skipped, sponsorship indifference, the entire program imperiled? Read what Andrea Bernstein has to report about the items left out of Monday's splashy announcement.
May 9, 2012, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Monday's announcement by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan of the city's new privately financed bike share program, Citibike, was the culmination of months of difficult and frenetic work, reports Bernstein.

The program's limited roll-out, with the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and much of Brooklyn skipped in the initial launch, is apparently indicative of a larger issue. The implementation of the program was imperiled by a lack of sponsorship interest until late in the process. It turns out that Mayor Bloomberg's promise that the entire system would be funded without taxpayer money, the only large-scale system in the country to do so, was a significant hurdle.

According to Bernstein's sources, who were familiar with negotiations over the bike share contract, "Puma was approached, and Adidas (New Balance has sponsored Boston's 'Hubway.') So was American Express. 'All the usual suspects,' said one source familiar with the negotiations. 'The list of companies who could spend this kind of money just isn't that long. And it was unprecedented to raise that kind of capital for an unproven system – bike share on European scale, an order of magnitude larger than any system in existence in north America.'"

"By February, officials were beginning to sweat. If New York didn't find a sponsor, the city could be on the hook to Alta - but worse, many officials thought, the bike share program could be imperiled."

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Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 in Transportation Nation
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