Norman Steisel  |

When Mayor Bloomberg announced recently that New York’s bike sharing program — initially set to launch this summer, then expand to 10,000 bikes — will be delayed until next year, some were disappointed.

The detour is a blessing in disguise.

All New Yorkers who truly want this ambitious, largest-in-the-nation program to succeed (as I do) should be relieved that we now have time to get it right. And not just to solve the problem on which the mayor pinned the delay: “The software doesn’t work. Duh.”

Bike sharing could be a wonderful addition to our transportation system. Or it could prove to be an exercise in congestion-and-collision-inducing chaos. To make sure that the results match our hopes — that tens of thousands of new bikers sharing thousands of new bikes parked at 600 new docking stations turns out to be exciting in a good way — we need more than glitch-free technology.

This city’s street network is an intricate, densely congested living system with millions of interacting-but-not-always-moving parts, in which humans and machines are perhaps as tightly intermeshed as they are anywhere.

We cannot simply drop tens of thousands of new riders, many of whom will presumably be tourists, on our traffic-packed streets and hope for the best. We need an intelligent, systemic plan to guide where these new two-wheelers will roll. {…}