On bike-share delays, advocates cut the mayor and their ‘dream commissioner’ some slack

Sadik-Khan, to the left of Bloomberg. (Edward Reed via NYC.gov)
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Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced during his regular Friday morning radio appearance that the city's much-touted, long-awaited bike share program, which had originally been scheduled to debut in July, would instead launch in spring 2013 thanks to a frequently cited, but never fully explained, problem with its "software."

Reporters (including this one) who have been avidly following every step of the program's tortured, secretive roll-out greeted the latest development as an unmistakable setback, confirming what the city had thus far been annoyingly reluctant to admit: the program is way behind schedule.

But transportation advocates, it must be said, have the administration's back, and profess to be unworried, at least publicly, about whatever it is that's holding things up.

Transportation Alternatives, the city's main cyclist advocacy group and a close ally of this administration's Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, was decidedly unperturbed.

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"While we are eager for Citi Bike to begin, it’s more crucial that this ground-breaking transit system be launched correctly, not quickly," said the group's executive director, Paul Steely White, in a statement emailed to the press. "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.”

In an email entitled, "Bike Share Worth the Wait," Veronica Vanterpool, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said, "With all eyes on the country’s largest bike share program to date, NYCDOT is right to ensure that the rollout of bike share is smooth and efficient. Waiting until all software issues are resolved is a responsible move that will help guarantee the success of the city’s first bike share. Tri-State looks forward to seeing the program roll out in the spring–perfect timing for putting the drab days of winter behind."

Why the lack of outrage?

"You know, from the point of view of the transportation groups, we have a dream Department of Transportation and commissioner," said Gene Russianoff, of the transit advocacy Straphangers Campaign. "It's the best it's ever been in the 30 years I've been around."

During her tenure, Sadik-Khan has vastly expanded the city's network of bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, among other initiatives that delight transportation advocacy groups. And so they're cutting her some substantial slack.

"There's a lot of goodwill and a lot of understanding," Russianoff said.