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On its 10th birthday, NYC’s bike share program has been more than a success

“And so, Memorial Day 2013 will go down in New York history as the start of the 10,000-rent-a-bike revolution, the day when the masses began pedaling en masse, safely, while speeding the flow of all forms of traffic. Or…This city is on the verge of intensified gridlock and fractured unhelmeted skulls as two-wheelers attempt to claim asphalt ownership amid cars, trucks, buses and emergency vehicles that are used to having things their way, tough as it is.”

That was our editorial of May 26, 2013, as Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan flaunted their little blue key fobs and launched Citi Bike. Ten years later, the bicycle rental network has taken off the training wheels. Ten thousand bikes have grown to almost 30,000, more than 4,000 of which are pedal-assist e-bikes, with a vastly expanded service area and, as of five years ago, new ownership that’s kept the street bike-share monopoly orderly, balanced and rolling.

The first 24 hours of the program saw 6,050 trips. This month, New Yorkers and tourists hit a new record, averaging about 124,000 trips a day.

So we gladly admit: Our fears, and the widespread fears of many others a decade ago, proved unfounded. Despite helmeted riders being a rarity, Citi Bike went four years without a single fatality and has remained relatively safe since. Early handwringing about lost parking spaces feels downright quaint in a city whose streets have been more dramatically remade by outdoor dining. Caterwauling about the high cost of a ride was answered, in part, with low-cost memberships for poor New Yorkers.

Much to the chagrin of chronically hysterical anti-bike conservatives and somewhat to the chagrin of progressives who insist the only way to do things is through government-run programs, this brilliant public-private partnership is what unqualified success looks like. It hasn’t served every last New Yorker — the service zone still leaves out much of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, and all of Staten Island — but those it served, it served well. May the wheels keep turning.

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