NYC gets its own version of Bixi

New York City's version of Montreal's Bixi bike-sharing program hits the streets Monday morning, with an official launch planned for 11 a.m.

The program, inspired by Bixi, is named Citi Bike, after its sponsor Citi Bank.

New Yorkers will have to pay an annual membership of $95 for access to the network of bright blue bikes.

Some 6,000 bicycles will be part of the network, spread out in 330 stations in both Manhattan (275) and Brooklyn (55).

City officials hope to eventually expand the network to 10,000 bikes at 600 stations, but the precise date of an expansion has not been specified.

In recent years, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration put the focus on the city's bike paths, with 500 km devoted to cyclists popping up in the last five years.

The city's transportation department estimates the number of cyclists has jumped 260% between 2000 and 2010.

The New York bikes and docks are similar to those seen in Montreal, with a couple of key differences.

Citi Bike is bright blue; Montreal's Bixi is grey. While the stations in both New York and Montreal are powered by solar energy, New York chose circular solar panels on top of poles. Montreal's docks have flat panels.

New York's system was originally scheduled to launch in July 2012, but had to be delayed due to bugs in the Bixi software. It was also postponed after the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy last October.

Bixi has been operating in Montreal since May 2009, and the popular bike-sharing program has sold the idea to a host of cities around the globe, including Boston, London and Melbourne, Australia.

However, Montreal's bike-sharing program has also been plagued by financial problems, namely a cash shortfall and a steep drop in revenues, prompting the company to ask the city for a bailout in 2011.

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