Bloomberg unveils the shareable, Canadian-built ‘Citi bike’

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The Citi bike, and Robert Steel. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning began the press roll-out for his much touted bike share program with the unveiling of New York’s “Citi bike” in front of City Hall.

The three-gear bicycle's name and color (blue) are derived from its principal sponsor, Citibank, which is forking over $41 million for the branding rights. That, plus another $6.5 million from MasterCard, is expected to fully underwrite the project. Any profits will be shared between the bike system's operator, Alta Bicycle Share, and the city.

The bikes will be available starting at the end of July. By the end of next summer, 10,000 “Citi bikes” will be stationed at 600 solar-powered, wireless depots throughout New York City. The locations of the depots have been the subject of community discussion and will be unveiled later this week, presumably at another press conference.

The bike share, which the mayor says amounts to a new, 24/7 transportation system, will work like this: A cyclist will swipe her credit or debit card, and in return receive a "ride code" to unlock the bike from the adjacent depot. Users can pay $25 a week or $10 a day for unlimited 30-minute rides, or $95 a year for unlimited 45-minute rides, a pricing cheme city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan described as "the best deal in town short of the Staten Island Ferry.” 

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Cyclists will be charged $13 for every additional 30 minutes that the bike is not returned. If a cyclist should lose, steal, or be robbed of a bike, he or she will lose the $1,000 deposit that was put on the card when it was first swiped.

The bikes will come equipped with bells and front and rear lights, but no helmets.

They'll be assembled at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and manufactured in Montreal, which the mayor described as “an ally of America,” an apparent allusion to the Taxi of Tomorrow, which Nissan, a company that does business in Iran, is manufacturing.

UPDATE: Though Sadik-Khan said the bikes would be manufactured in Montreal, a Department of Transportation spokesman later clarified they would be manufactured in Chicoutimi, Quebec.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the accurate time limit for the $95/year plan: 45 minutes, not 30.