New York City has made international headlines with its efforts to curb obesity through proposals such as an attempted ban on large soda drinks.
And the city has launched another effort that's also been enacted by several other U.S. cities, a bike-share program. But if you’re hoping to peddle away the pounds, there’s one catch: The city says you have to weigh less than 260 pounds to sign up.
As the New York Post reports, the city says it placed the weight limits based on a recommendation from the bicycle manufacturer. And Department of Transportation policy director Jon Orcutt tells the Post that the city won’t really enforce the rule, anyway.
“I think people will be self-selecting, practical and safe,” he said.
A number of cyclists and bike shop owners told the Post that the hefty frames on the bikes used in the program should be adequate to support someone who weighs 260 pounds. And the specific weight raises the question, what exactly is obese? The USDA links to a page from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which says, “The terms 'overweight' and 'obesity' refer to body weight that’s greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height.” Which leaves open the possibility that a healthy individual who happens to weigh more than 260 pounds could still be banned from the bike-share program.
When the program is fully implemented, it will offer more than 10,000 bikes at 600 locations throughout the city, the largest in America.
The bike-share program works by letting individuals pick up a bike from a set location and then either return it to the same spot or drop it off at any one of the company’s stations in the same city.
Still, the restriction is sure to draw more negative attention to the city’s health program efforts. Before people can take part in the program, which costs $98 per month, or $25 per week, they must sign a contract stating that they meet the weight requirement.
But isn’t getting some of the city’s heaviest residents into a healthy exercise program just what the city is going for? After all, a moderate- to fast-paced cycling routine can burn hundreds of calories and provide many people with a safer alternative to running or other more demanding physical activities.
The Post notes that New York City is not alone in setting the weight limits. Bicycle manufacturer Alta Bicycle Share has launched similar programs in other places, including Portland, Ore.; Boston; and Washington, D.C., with the same requirement. The company says it plans to start similar programs in other U.S. cities including Columbus, Ohio; San Francisco; and Chicago, home of the deep-dish pizza.