"The future is visible", says former Tailing Head David Byrne, as he backs a new scheme to make rental bikes available in New York City.
The concept of the rental bike (or 'cycle hire'), where city dwellers pay a set fee and remove a bicycle from its housing, then proceed to cycle to their destination and then return the bicycle to another set location, has proved popular in London, U.K.. They were the idea of former Mayor of London Livingstone, although they were implemented by his successor Boris Johnson and became known colloquially as "Boris Bikes".
The artist and musician David Byrne, on a visit to London in 2011, was inspired by the idea. The former lead of the Talking Heads is backing the plan to adopt a similar scheme in New York. This support has lead to a recent essay, written by Byrne, in the New York Times.
In the essay, Byrne writes:
"New York’s system will be a lot like the one in London, which I used last summer. Before setting off, I downloaded a map and app that showed me where to find the bike station closest to my hotel, near Soho Square and to my destinations, an art gallery in Mayfair and later a restaurant in Notting Hill. I made one payment — a pound (about $1.50 — cheap!) — and I was good all day; there are no additional charges as long as each bike trip is under 30 minutes. (It’s easy to keep bike trips within that time limit because there are loads of stations where you can drop the bike off, and you can get a new bike after having a coffee.)"
David Byrne recently penned a bike-trip travelogue called "Bicycle Diaries".
The New York scheme is due to begin the summer of 2012 and is seen as an important step in getting round the city's heavy traffic and often gridlocaked roads. It will also help to promote health an well-being. The scheme, announced last September, will be called 'Citi Bike'.
The New York scheme will begin with 420 stations in Manhattan, Long Island and Brooklyn and ultimately make 10,000 bikes available for hire.
Will it prove to be as popular as the scheme in London or the other similar initiatives around the world? Byrne thinks so, as he concludes his essay:
"The future is visible in the increasing number of bikes you see all over the urban landscape. This simple form of transportation is about to make our city more livable, more human and better connected; New Yorkers are going to love the bike-share program; culturally and physically, our city is perfectly suited for it."
Nevertheless, some commentators question the scheme, such as the Txchnologist blog, especially given that the scheme is to be launched at the height of the New York summer. Whereas Tree Hugger surveys the hundreds of comments that Byrne's NY Times article has attracted, about "how cyclists blow through red lights and go the wrong way on one way streets and are a menace to pedestrians".