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Free-wheeling trouble for New York's bikeshare system

NEW YORK -- New York's bikeshare program may be hugely popular with just over 100,000 annual members but after operating less than a year, it is desperately searching for a US$14 million investment.

A long, freezing winter may have put the brakes on all but the most fanatical of cyclists, but with the arrival of spring the bikes' royal blue livery will once again become omnipresent.

Since their launch in May 2013, Citi Bikes have traveled 11.26 million kilometers (7 million miles).

In good weather, they make an average of 36,000 trips a day although that figure dropped to 8,000 during an icy February.

Bad omens have not come true: there have been few injuries and no deaths as the bikes jostle for space with pedestrians, taxis, cars, trucks and delivery men in the city that never sleeps.

But while the scheme will celebrate its first anniversary next month, officials admit they are on the hunt for new investors — and millions of dollars.

“Our parent company, Alta Bicycle Share, is seeking investment that will allow us, Citi Bike, to expand to 10,000 bikes,” NYC Bike Share spokeswoman Dani Simons told AFP.

“That would cost about US$14 million,” she said. ABS “is also speaking to investors about a variety of possible investment opportunities.”

In New York, unlike most cities, the network was set up on the grounds that it would cost the taxpayer nothing.

The first sponsor, Citigroup, paid US$41 million over five years to have its logo on 6,000 bikes and 332 stations in southern Manhattan and various parts of Brooklyn.

That was supposed to be a first step before the scheme was widened to 10,000 bikes and nearly 600 stations in a larger area.

But maintenance turned out to be more expensive than anticipated.

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