| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 2 New York City's upcoming public
bike share program, Citibike, has already irked parking space
seekers, food cart vendors and locals who resent seeing a
Citibank sponsor logo on nearly every block.
Now, heavier New Yorkers can be added to the list.
According to the program's user contract, riders "must not
exceed the maximum weight limit" of 260 pounds (120 kg) if they
wish to sign up for the short-term bike rentals that will soon
be available on city streets.
"These technical specs are established by the equipment
manufacturer and are the same as other bike share cities around
the world," said Seth Solomonow, a spokesman for the New York
City Department of Transportation, which oversees the program
that is funded by Citibank.
The bike program, slated to launch later this Spring, will
make several thousand bicycles available throughout the city for
cyclists who sign up for yearly, weekly, or daily passes. The
bikes can be picked up and dropped off at different docking
stations during the course of a day and are meant to provide an
alternative to traveling by subway, bus, or car.
The city has no way of enforcing the weight limit, and
Solomonow said that he and his department "expect people will
use the bikes safely."
New York City residents Amanda Wotton, 26, and Anthony
Laporta, 31, said the policy is not fair.
"The city should provide different types of bikes so
everyone can participate," said Laporta, a computer technician
with a slender build who was enjoying a salad lunch in the park
outside the New York Public Library. "Otherwise, someone's
definitely going to feel left out."
Wotton, an average-size woman who works as a graphic
designer, observed that 260 pounds "isn't even that much --
there are probably big muscular guys and NFL players that would
be barred from cycling."
Groups advocating for the rights of obese and overweight
people also criticized Citibike's terms of service. James
Zervios, a spokesman for the Obesity Action Coalition, called
the policy discriminatory.
"If the city's offering bikes they should have bikes that
accommodate all shapes and sizes," Zervios said. "This is
another example of a certain population being pulled out and put
under a spotlight for no reason."
Policies that single out heavy people have become more
common in recent years, Zervios noted.
Last month, Samoa Air began determining plane ticket prices
based on a passenger's weight and the length of their trip, and
several years ago, some ambulance crews raised their regular
fees when transporting very heavy people.
The Citibike program has gained a number of detractors in
the city. Irate drivers insist precious parking spaces should
not be taken over by bike racks. Owners of a housing
cooperative, or co-ops, in downtown Manhattan have claimed the
stations are dangerous to people walking out of their building.
Preservationists in historic neighborhoods like Fort Greene
in Brooklyn say the Citibank-branded installations are an
eyesore. And food cart vendors have protested against a station
they say displaced their business.