Saratoga County

NYC bike program has local connection

A massive bicycle-sharing program for New York City will be run by an Oregon company that is partial

A massive bicycle-sharing program for New York City will be run by an Oregon company that is partially owned by a Saratoga Springs resident.

Jeff Olson, a partner in Alta Planning and Design and Alta Bicycle Share, was in New York on Wednesday for the announcement that his company will run the proposed 10,000-bicycle system. Now scheduled to be fully in use by the summer of 2012, this program will allow people to purchase yearly memberships of up to $100 that will provide an unlimited number of trips.

“It was a pretty good day,” he said of the event, which included the presence of former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, a longtime bicycling advocate. “It’s really interesting to see it happening at that level.”

In the process of securing this project, Olson said he has been deeply involved with other members of his team and has taken many trips to the city to develop the proposal.

He said that his company’s work is just starting, with the next step revolving around selecting locations where people can rent and return bicycles. There is currently a pilot program in operation and a website went live Wednesday to garner input from the public on where people want to see rental locales.

With only some initial development actually under way, Olson said Alta Planning and Design will now try to target the final locations. “That’s part of what will happen next as the city moves the project forward,” he said.

This stage will include even more commutes to the city, but Olson sees this as a perk of living in Saratoga Springs.

“[It’s a] great opportunity to live here and work all over the world,” he said. “I hope I can go [to New York] as often as possible. I really enjoy it.”

This is a growing industry, with Alta Bicycle Share already operating in Boston and Washington, D.C. These operations pale in comparison to their New York endeavor, which will be about ten times the size of the D.C. program, which itself is coming up on its one-millionth trip.

Going forward, Olson said there are opportunities for the Capital Region to grow its bicycle programs and noted that there are a number of trail projects in the area. He advocated for a broad approach, which would incorporate the interests of small and large municipalities.

“Would I like to see more of that happening regionally? Of course,” he said. “We’re not Portland, [Ore]. Do we have the potential to be the next Portland? Yeah, we do.”

Maple Avenue Middle School in Saratoga Springs was an example he cited of evolving attitudes about bicycles, as the school recently reversed its rule against allowing students to bike there. “A group of my son’s friends have been doing that since the ban was changed. I think it could be a much bigger number if the community promoted it,” Olson said.

He added that this decision follows the path taken by Portland, which had schools that banned bicycle commutes a decade ago.

A potential benefit of this transformation could be economic development money. Olson argued that a community becomes more attractive to people when bicycle travel is embraced and promoted.

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