The city’s bike share program has traded in burgers for trains, though there’s still a little beer in the mix.
The new short-term rental program, Bike New Haven, launched 15 new advertisements this week for the Hartford Line, a decade-in-the-works commuter train line that connects New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield up to 17 times per day. The new train line launched in June.
The new advertisements come just a week after the fast-food giant McDonald’s ended its controversial advertising campaign through the bike share program, thus leaving the Hartford Line and Heineken beer as the two remaining current advertisers. Critics argued that the fast-food ads contradicted the healthful mission of the program; officials pointed out that the ads pay for the program so that taxpayers don’t.
Bike New Haven, which launched in February, allows subscribers to rent lime-green, Bike New Haven-branded bicycles for 45-minute rides on a per-ride, daily, monthly, or annual basis.
Bike New Haven currently has 24 stations and 100 bikes available for rent throughout the city. Program Manager Carolyn Lusch said another 100 bikes will be coming online shortly, The remaining six stations in the first phase of the bike share’s rollout are either in design or still awaiting city approval in regards to their exact final locations.
Lusch said 1,650 individuals have taken over 5,000 trips on bike share bicycles since the program began in New Haven on Feb. 19.
“We can see as the weather improves, as people start traveling by bicycle for the summer, that our numbers are going up in terms of per-week rides,” she told the Independent.
Since the program launched in February, a number of Independent readers and city residents have expressed concern about the advertisement component of the bike share program.
The program is not funded by city dollars. It derives all of its revenue from a mix of user fees and advertisements, which are posted on eight-by-five-foot ad panels placed a few feet away from nearly every station.
The launching advertiser for Bike New Haven was McDonald’s. Critics pointed out the irony, and potentially negative influence, of featuring large ads with burgers, soda, and milkshakes alongside a new public transportation system touted as a healthy alternative to driving. Supporters said the non-taxpayer-funded system would not be possible without advertisers, and that companies like McDonald’s also advertise on the public buses.
Since the McDonald’s opening ads, the bike share program has also cycled through advertisements by Coors beer and Heineken beer. Lusch said Coor’s has also ended its advertising agreement with Bike New Haven, and that both Heineken and the Hartford Line have purchased ad space through mid to late-August.