Can you imagine commandeering a bicycle instead of hailing a cab? No, it’s not an upcoming eco-action-thriller. It’s alta’s bike share program. Next summer, New Yorkers will be able to rent a bike from one bike share station in the city to another. At today's demo in DUMBO, I learned enough to be impressed: The program works like zipcar but comes with a bonus: you don't have to bring the loaner back to the same station where you found it. Any station (they should be located every 3-4 blocks in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn) with an open spot is fair parking.
I test drove one for a few minutes: smooth ride, solid foundation. Seems pretty affordable so I’ll likely join even though I own a bike. But what about helmets? Alta says it will encourage use, but won’t provide helmets, since NYC law requires only those under age 13 or cycling for work to strap one on.
I don't see myself carrying a helmet everywhere I go, but I’ll definitely hesitate to jump on a bike “naked.” Have you ever used a bike share program? They’re popular in cities like Paris, Dublin and Hangzhou, and on many college campuses in the US. If you have taken advantage of a community cycling system, how did you deal with the safety issue? Post suggestions or ideas in comments. To learn about bike ownership, check out our cycling story Wheel Life: How To Ride A Bicycle story.