The New York City Bike Share program is not only bringing 10,000 bikes with 600 solar-powered stations to the city by 2013, it’s also creating jobs, right now. The privately funded bike share system will launch in July with docking stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens and be the country’s largest bike sharing system.
During her City Council testimony on Tuesday, Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner, announced that the program will bring about 200 jobs to Brooklyn. NYC Bike Share, a subsidiary of Alta Bike Share, has already posted seven senior positions and will list more jobs later this month. Though all jobs will be found online at www.citibikenyc.com, Alta Bike Share president Alison Cohen said the company also plans to hold a job fair and will be working with employment agencies associated with the Navy Yard and Henry Street Settlement, among others.
Though many employees will be working on the streets while tending to bikes and docking stations, the company will have its temporary headquarters at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where it will occupy a 100,000-square-foot warehouse. Operations will begin with a dozen staff members, but by mid-July, that will balloon to 100 and reach 150-200 by August, according to Cohen. The company will eventually move to a permanent home in Sunset Park at Third Avenue and 53rd Street, where a 30,000-square-foot space will hold a warehouse and office space.
Though new to New York City, Alta Bike Share already operates bike share systems in Boston, Chattanooga, Washington, D.C., and Melbourne, Australia. When asked about what kind of workforce is typically employed in bike share programs, Cohen emphasized the physical nature of the job, and the fact that one doesn’t have to be a bicyclist; in fact, there’s only one job category that’s specifically bike-related, and the company needs a lot of van drivers.
“Most of our workforce is between the ages of 20-50. All the jobs except for the call center are physical. We have a diverse workforce when it comes to age and gender and socio-economic background. We get young people out of college and people who have never biked before but become bike riders,” Cohen explained by phone while traveling by train.
The company has several different job categories. Truck or van drivers will be circulating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to “rebalance” or redistribute the bikes at the docking stations. Bike checkers will be in the field, taking care of bikes for cleanliness and safety. Those with electrical skills will maintain the stations. The only office job is for customer service agents at the call center. Cohen expects to employ about 30 bike mechanics by the end of August.
When asked what’s fun about working for a bike share, Cohen immediately turned to the big picture: “We work very, very hard but we are on front edge of real revolution in terms of how cities operate. It’s been fantastic to work with city leaders in each of our cities. Most technology developments and innovation in the U.S. has been in private sector, but this is being pushed by the public sector. There’s such good will around bike share. People who haven’t been around bikes for maybe 20 years smile when they see the bikes and stations.”
For those who haven’t been on a bike for 20 years, aren’t even old enough for high school, or are just eager to get acquainted with the specially designed Citibikes and meet some NYC Bike Share staff, don’t miss the four Bike Bonanza events in June. The first is this Sunday, June 3, at Commodore Barry Park, close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. (The closest subway to the park is the F train at York Street, approximately half a mile from the park.)
The event will include information about the system, test rides and a helmet fitting program.
The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) will be distributing free helmets to kids and adults. Helmets are not required of adult bike riders, but on Thursday, a bill that would make it mandatory was introduced in the City Council (Mayor Bloomberg is opposed to the regulation). Children under 14 must wear helmets.
Waiver signatures are required by the DOT at the bike bonanza events, so anyone under the age of 18 must have a legal guardian present, and all helmet recipients must be in attendance.