DEPARTMENT of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and I launched Citi Bike, the nation’s largest bike share system, with 6,000 bikes now available at more than 300 stations for use by Citi Bike’s more than 15,000 annual members.

The initial service area includes Manhattan below 59th Street and in Brooklyn Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and DUMBO neighborhoods in Brooklyn, with bike share stations located every few blocks.

Citi Bike, the nation’s largest bike share system, is being funded by a $41 million sponsorship from Citi, one of the world’s leading global banks, and without city subsidy.

Annual members who sign up at receive an electronic key which they can insert into a bike dock to undock a bike, allowing unlimited trips up to 45 minutes for an entire year without incurring any additional costs.

To complete the trip, users need only dock the bike at any available rack in the system.

The system will be available exclusively for annual members until June 2, when 24-hour and seven-day access passes — which provide unlimited 30-minute trips — will be available for purchase at any station kiosk.

I was joined by the commissioner and Citi U.S. Consumer Banking Manhattan Division Manager Michele Imbasciani at Centre and Chambers Streets adjacent to City Hall, where a 39-dock, solar-powered bike share station was activated, officially starting the Citi Bike system.

The Citi Bike program is a big win for New York, and it’s already the largest bike share system in the nation.

It’s going to give New Yorkers another way to get around town by extending connectivity from subway and bus stops.

It’s also going to be great for our millions of visitors, allowing them another way to see the city, including making our incredible waterfront more accessible.

Citi Bike locations were determined at 400 meetings with community boards, civic organizations, elected officials and other property owners and stakeholders, and with some 65,000 online suggestions received on the city’s bike share portal, the most public input for any transportation project.

Annual membership provides a complement to New York City’s extensive transportation network and will make destinations farther from subway stations and bus stops easier to reach, while also providing better access to many of the city’s growing waterfront communities.

For annual members, trips that are shorter than 45 minutes incur no additional charges while longer trips incur overtime fees.

Work continues to expand the system toward a goal of 10,000 bikes and 600 stations stretching from the Upper East and West Sides to Long Island City and Sunnyside in Queens; and to Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Crown Heights and Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

The 6,000 bikes and more than 300 stations have the cardinal rules of the road printed on them - Yield to pedestrians; Stay off the sidewalk; Obey traffic lights; Ride with traffic.

While helmet use is not legally required for any adult cyclists in the city, it is strongly encouraged for Citi Bike users.

Annual members receive a $10 helmet discount coupon, and the department has distributed more than 80,000 free helmets to bike riders and is on pace to reach 100,000 distributed by the end of this year.

The Department of Transportation also launched street safety managers to reinforce the rules of the road, which come alongside advertising campaigns to encourage all street users to look out for each other.

The last five years have recorded the fewest traffic fatalities in city history, and the risk of serious injury for bike riders has dropped nearly 75 percent over the last decade as ridership quadrupled while serious crashes remained unchanged.

Biking is the city’s fastest growing transportation option, with the number of cyclists on key commuter routes doubling from 2007 to 2011.

Citi Bike is also expected to have a positive impact on the local economy, creating 170 jobs and generating $36 million in local economic activity annually.

The number of New York City bike shops has grown from about 100 five years ago to 170 today, driven by the demand for bikes and also for helmets, lights and biking gear.

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