Blame the computers. Mayor Bloomberg this morning confirmed what had already become evident to anyone with eyes: New York City's ambitious and highly-anticipated bike share program, CitiBike, is not going to make its debut in 2012. "Unfortunately there are software issues," Bloomberg said on his radio show this morning. "The software doesn’t work. Duh. Until it works, we’re not going to put it out."
Still! "We did think there would be a possibility we would have bikes on the streets this summer," he went on. As for when those shiny blue bikes will make it onto the street: "We think...this spring. Hopefully the software will work by then."
The issue appears to be with the software used by bike share operator Alta's docking stations. Previously the company (and its Canadian partner Bixi) successfully used software from a Montreal firm but stopped after a legal dispute. Now they are using their own software and, well, it isn't there yet.
So will this delay cost Alta anything? Doesn't look like it. As Transportation Nation reports:
Alta Bicycle Share, the company picked by New York City last September to run its program, was supposed to have had at least 1,000 bikes on the street on or before July 31, according to its contract with the city, which Transportation Nation has obtained.
Thereafter, Alta was supposed to have added at least 75 stations per ten business days, building to 7,000 bikes by September 30.
Bloomberg said Thursday there were no penalties for a delay.
“It’s all private money. And the people who’ve put up the money, particularly the two big sponsors, Citibank and MasterCard, are fully aware of what’s going on and they have been as supportive as you possibly can be. The city loses because we don’t have bicycles, but the city doesn’t lose any money or anything, and we all want to get it done as quickly — but you’ve got to do it right.”
According to the DOT, CitiBike will now launch in March 2013 with an initial phase of 7,000 bikes and 420 stations. It will then expand after that. "New York City demands a world-class bike share system, and we need to ensure that Citi Bike launches as flawlessly as New Yorkers expect on Day One," DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a release. "The enthusiasm for this program continues to grow and we look forward to bringing this affordable new transportation option to New Yorkers without cost to taxpayers."
Sadik-Khan isn't the only one looking on the bright side on the depressing news, Transportation Alternatives' put out the following statement: “While we are eager for Citi Bike to begin, it’s more crucial that this ground-breaking transit system be launched correctly, not quickly. New York’s public bike share program will not only be the largest bike share system in the Western Hemisphere, it will also be the city’s first brand-new, full-scale form of public transit since the subway’s debut more than 100 years ago—this is not a moment to rush. When bike share launches in 2013, it will transform New York City by giving New Yorkers unprecedented convenience and freedom of mobility. In time, the circumstances of Citi Bike’s launch will be all but forgotten and we’ll all be enjoying a city made safer, healthier and less congested.”
Meanwhile CitiBike critic Comptroller John Liu, wants the city to use the delay to better prepare: “While the delay may have been caused by poor planning and software problems, the City should take this opportunity to address the remaining safety issues associated with the plan in order to lower the number of accidents and fatalities that may result from the Bike Share program.”
Guess the summer of 2012 wasn't the summer of the bicycle after all. Here's to the Blue Bike Spring next year!