Bicycle sharing system
A bicycle sharing system, public bicycle system, or bike share scheme, is a service in which bicycles are made available for shared use to individuals on a very short term basis. Bike share schemes allow people to borrow a bike from point "A" and return it at point "B". Many bike-share systems offer subscriptions that make the first 30–45 minutes of use very inexpensive, encouraging their use as transportation. This allows each bike to serve several users per day. In most bike-share cities, casual riding over several hours or days is better served by bicycle rental than by bike-share. For many systems, smartphone mapping apps show nearby stations with available bikes and open docks.
Bike-share began in Europe in 1965, and a viable format emerged in the mid-2000s thanks to the introduction of information technology. As of June 2014[update], public bikesharing systems were available on five continents, including 712 cities, operating approximately 806,200 bicycles at 37,500 stations. As of May 2011[update], the Wuhan and Hangzhou Public Bicycle bike-share systems in China were the largest in the world, with around 90,000 and 60,000 bicycles respectively. The Vélib' in Paris bicycle stations, is the largest outside of China. The countries with the most systems are Spain (132), Italy (104), and China (79). As of July 2013[update], the systems with the higher market penetration are both operating in France, the Parisian Velib' with 1 bike per 97 inhabitants and Vélo'v in Lyon with 1 bike per 121 residents.
Bicycle sharing systems can be divided into two general categories: "Community Bike programmes" organised mostly by local community groups or non-profit organisations; and "Smart Bike programmes" implemented by government agencies, sometimes in a public-private partnership. The central concept of these systems is to provide free or affordable access to bicycles for short-distance trips in an urban area as an alternative to motorised public transport or private vehicles, thereby reducing traffic congestion, noise, and air pollution. Bicycle sharing systems have also been cited as a way to solve the "last mile" problem and connect users to public transit networks.
The reasons people use bike-share vary considerably. Some who would otherwise use their own bicycle have concerns about theft or vandalism, parking or storage, and maintenance requirements. However, with limits on the number of places where bicycles can be rented or returned, the service resembles public transit, and has therefore been criticised as less convenient than a privately owned bicycle used door-to-door. Government-run bicycle sharing programmes can also prove costly to the public unless subsidised by commercial interests, typically in the form of advertising on stations or the bicycles themselves.
- 1 Types
- 2 History
- 3 Effects
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes and references
- 6 External links
Although users of such systems generally pay to use vehicles that they themselves do not own, sharing systems differ from traditional for-profit bike rental businesses. The first bike sharing projects were largely initiated by local community organisations, either as charitable projects intended for the disadvantaged, or to promote bicycles as a non-polluting form of transport. In recent years, in an effort to reduce losses from theft and vandalism, many bike-sharing schemes now require a user to provide a monetary deposit or other security, or to become a paid subscriber. Most large-scale urban bike sharing programmes utilise numerous bike check-out stations, and operate much like public transit systems, catering to tourists and visitors as well as local residents.
To date, no publicly owned and administered bicycle sharing programme has yet been able to consistently operate as a self-funding enterprise, using only revenues generated from membership subscriptions or user fees and charges. As a consequence, most publicly owned bicycle sharing systems utilise funding from public governmental and/or charitable sources. Bike sharing schemes may be administered by government entities, nonprofit private organisations, or via public-private partnerships.
Many bicycle sharing schemes have been developed by a variety of organisations over the years, all based on one or more of the following systems:
- In this type of programme the bicycles are simply released into a city or given area for use by anyone. In some cases, such as a university campus, the bicycles are only designated for use within certain boundaries. Users are expected to leave the bike unlocked in a public area once they reach their destination. Because the bike is not required to be returned to a centralised station, ready availability of such bicycles is rare, and since unlocked bikes may be taken by another user at any time, the original rider is forced to find alternative transport for the return trip. Bicycle sharing programs without locks, user identification, and security deposits have also historically suffered large loss rates from theft and vandalism.
- A small cash deposit releases the bike from a locked terminal and can only be retrieved by returning it to another. Since the deposit (usually one or more coins) is a fraction of the bike's cost, this does little to deter theft. Other bike sharing programmes have implemented rules requiring the user to provide a valid credit card, along with substantial security deposits for bicycles and mandatory security locks.
- In this version of the system, bicycles are kept either at volunteer-run hubs or at self-service terminals throughout the city. Individuals registered with the program identify themselves with their membership card (or by a smart card, via cell phone, or other methods) at any of the hubs to check out a bicycle for a short period of time, usually three hours or less. In many schemes the first half-hour is free. The individual is responsible for any damage or loss until the bike is returned to another hub and checked in.
- Many of the membership-based systems are operated through public-private partnerships. Several European cities, including the French cities of Lyon and Paris as well as London, Barcelona, Stockholm and Oslo, have signed contracts with private advertising agencies (JCDecaux in Brussels, Lyon, Paris, Seville and Dublin; Clear Channel in Stockholm, Oslo, Barcelona, Perpignan and Zaragoza) which supply the city with thousands of bicycles free of charge (or for a minor fee). In return, the agencies are allowed to advertise both on the bikes themselves and in other select locations in the city. Some other programmes are not linked to an advertising deal (for example Smoove) and are financed as a part of public transportation scheme. These programmes attempt to reduce losses from theft by requiring users to purchase subscriptions with a credit card or debit card (this option requiring a large, temporary deposit) and by equipping the bike with complex anti-theft and bike maintenance sensors. If the bike is not returned within the subscription period, or returned with significant damage, the bike sharing operator withdraws money from the user's credit card account.
- A system has been developed whereby a member need not return the bike to a kiosk; rather, the next user can find it by GPS.
E-bike sharing is becoming more popular. The e-bikes are generally recharged upon parking them at their station. E-bikes extend the range of the bikes and make cities with more difficult topographies more accessible.
In 2009, Chiyu Chen proposed the Hybrid2-system which stores some of the pedal power on a (ultra)capacitor. Similar to vehicle-to-grid systems, the energy is then fed back to the mains electricity grid. The Ohio State University announced plans to integrate electric assist bicycles as part of its bicycle share program launching in 2015. 
Sometimes known as Bike Library models, these bicycles may be lent free of charge, for a refundable deposit, or for a small fee. A bicycle is checked out to one person who will typically keep the bike for several months, and is encouraged or obliged to lock it between uses. A disadvantage of this system is a lower usage frequency, around three uses per day on average as compared to 10 to 15 uses per day typically experienced with other bike-sharing schemes.
Advantages of long-term use include rider familiarity with the bicycle and a mode of travel that is always nearby and instantly ready for use. The bicycle can be checked out like a library book, a liability waiver can be collected at check-out, and the bike can be returned any time. A Library Bike in a person's possession can be chosen for some trips instead of a car, thus lowering car usage. The long-term rental system generally results in fewer repair costs to the scheme administrator, as riders are incentivised to obtain minor maintenance in order to keep the bike in running order during the long rental period. Most of the long-term systems implemented to date are funded solely through charitable donations of second-hand bicycles, using unpaid volunteer labour to maintain, and administer the bicycle fleet. While reducing or eliminating the need for public funding, such a scheme imposes an outer limit to program expansion. The Arcata Community Library Bike Program of Arcata, California has loaned over 4000 bicycles using this system.
Partnership with public transport sector
In a national-level programme that combines a typical rental system with several of the above system types, a passenger railway operator or infrastructure manager partners with a national cycling organisation and others to create a system closely connected with public transport. These programmes usually allow for a longer rental time of up to 24 or 48 hours, as well as tourists and round trips. In some German cities the national rail company offers a bike rental service called Call a Bike.
Partnership with car park operators
City CarShare, a San Francisco-based non-profit, received a federal grant in 2012 to integrate electric bicycles within its existing carsharing fleet. The program is set to launch before the end of 2012 with 45 bikes.
Many community-run bicycle programmes paint their bicycles in a strong solid colour, such as yellow or white. Painting the bicycles helps to advertise the programme, as well as deter theft (a painted-over bicycle frame is normally less desirable to a buyer). However, theft rates in many bike-sharing programmes remain high, as most shared-use bicycles have value only as basic transport, and may be resold to unsuspecting buyers after being cleaned and repainted. In response, some large-scale bike sharing programmes have designed their own bike using specialised frame designs and other parts to prevent disassembly and resale of stolen parts.
Another advantage of bike-sharing systems is that the smart-cards allow the bicycles to be returned to any station in the system, which facilitates one-way rides to work, education or shopping centres. Thus, one bike may take 10-15 rides a day with different users and can be ridden up to 10,000 km (6,200 mi) a year (citing Lyon, France). The distance between stations is only 300–400 metres (1,000–1,300 ft) in inner city areas.
It was found—in cities like Paris and Copenhagen—that to have a major impact there had to be a high density of available bikes. Copenhagen has 2500 bikes which cannot be used outside the 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi) zone of the city centre (a fine of DKr 1000 applies to any user taking bikes across the canal bridges around the periphery). Since Paris's Vélib' programme operates with an increasing fee past the free first half-hour, users have a strong disincentive to take the bicycles out of the city centre.
In May 2011, there were around 375 bikesharing systems comprising 236,000 bicycles, and by April 2013 there were around 535 schemes around the world, made of an estimated fleet of 517,000 bicycles. As of June 2014[update], public bikesharing systems existed on five continents, including 712 cities, operating approximately 806,200 bicycles at 37,500 stations.
The Wuhan and Hangzhou Public Bicycle programs in China are the largest in the world, with around 90,000 and 60,000 bicycles respectively. In Hangzhou there are over 2,400 stations. The Vélib' in Paris, which comprises around 18,000 bicycles and 1,230 bicycle stations, is the largest outside of China. Barclays Cycle Hire in London has about 8,000 bikes, and New York City's Citi Bike has about 6,000. As of May 2011[update], the countries with the most programs are France with 29, Spain (25), Italy (19), and China (19).
As of July 2013[update], the systems with the higher market penetration are Velib' in Paris with 1 bike per 97 inhabitants, Vélo'v in Lyon with 1 bike per 121 residents, and Hangzou in China with 1 per 145. Barcelona's Bicing has 1 per 270, Montreal's Bixi has 1 per 300, London's Barclays Cycle Hire has 1 per 984, and New York City's Citi Bike has 1 per 8,336.
Bike-sharing systems have undergone changes which can be categorised into three key phases, or generations. These include the ﬁrst generation, called white bikes (or free bikes); the second generation of coin-deposit systems; and the third generation, or information technology (IT) based systems. Recent technological and operational improvements are also paving the way for a fourth generation, known as the demand-responsive, multimodal system.
The earliest well-known community bicycle program was started in the summer of 1965 by Luud Schimmelpennink in association with the radical group Provo in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This so-called White Bicycle Plan provided free bicycles that were supposed to be used for one trip and then left for someone else. Within a month, most of the bikes had been stolen and the rest were found in nearby canals. The programme is still active in some parts of the Netherlands (the Hoge Veluwe National Park; bikes have to stay inside the park). It originally existed as one in a series of White Plans proposed in the street magazine produced by the anarchist group Provo.
Years later, Schimmelpennink admitted that "the Sixties experiment never existed in the way people believe" and that "no more than about ten bikes" had been put out on the street "as a suggestion of the bigger idea". As the police had temporarily confiscated all of the White Bicycles within a day of their release to the public, the White Bicycle experiment had actually lasted less than one month.
In 1974 the French city of La Rochelle launched a free bike-sharing programme, Vélos Jaunes (Yellow Bikes), featuring unisex bicycles which were free to take and use. In terms of public usage and acceptance, it is regarded today as one of the first truly successful bike-sharing programmes. The programme continues today, albeit in modified form (rental charges apply after the first two hours, and personal identification is required for all bike rentals).
In 1993, a Green Bike Scheme bike sharing programme was initiated in Cambridge, United Kingdom, using a fleet of some 300 bicycles. The overwhelming majority of the fleet were stolen or missing within a year of the programme's introduction, and the Green Bike Scheme was abandoned.
In an attempt to overcome losses from theft, the next innovation adopted by bike sharing programmes was the use of so-called 'smart technology'. One of the first 'smart bike' programmes was the Grippa™ bike storage rack system used in Portsmouth's Bikeabout scheme. The Bikeabout scheme was launched in October 1995 by the University of Portsmouth, UK as part of its Green Transport Plan in an effort to cut car travel by staff and students between campus sites. Funded in part by the EU's ENTRANCE programme, the Bikeabout scheme was a "smart card" fully automated system. For a small fee, users were issued 'smart cards' with magnetic stripes to be swiped through an electronic card reader at a covered 'bike store' kiosk, unlocking the bike from its storage rack. CCTV camera surveillance was installed at all bike stations in an effort to limit vandalism. Upon arriving at the destination station, the smart card was used to open a cycle rack and record the bike's safe return. A charge was automatically registered on the user's card if the bike was returned with damage or if the time exceeded the three-hour maximum. Implemented with an original budget of approximately £200,000, the Portsmouth Bikeabout scheme was never very successful in terms of rider usage, in part due to the limited number of bike kiosks and hours of operation. Seasonal weather restrictions and concerns over unjustified charges for bike damage also imposed barriers to usage. The Bikeabout program was discontinued by the University in 1998 in favour of expanded minibus service; the total costs of the Bikeabout programme were never disclosed.
Following the previous bike-sharing systems, the first next generation bike-sharing system, was introduced in 1991 in Farsø. Even though it was a small-scale scheme, it paved the way for the Copenhagen's ByCyklen programme, which was introduced in 1995 and was the first large-scale urban bike-sharing programme to feature specially designed bicycles with parts which could not be used on other bikes. To obtain a bicycle, riders paid a refundable deposit at one of 110 special locking bike stands, and the riders then had unlimited use of the bike within a specified 'city bike zone'. The fine for not returning a bicycle or leaving the bike-sharing zone exceeded US$150, and was strictly enforced by the police. Originally, the programme's founders hoped to completely finance the programme by selling advertising space on the bicycles, which was placed on the bike's frame and its solid disc-type wheels. This funding source quickly proved to be insufficient, and the city of Copenhagen took over the administration of the programme, funding most of the programme costs through appropriations from city revenues along with contributions from corporate donors. Since the City Bikes programme was free to the user, there is no return on the capital invested by the municipality, and a considerable amount of public funds was constantly used to keep the system in service, to enforce regulations, and to replace missing bikes. In 2013 a new version was expected to be introduced but the municipality of Copenhagen temporarily withdrew its support and there were no free bicycles for most of 2013. Copenhagen municipality changed its mind and a new version was introduced in late 2013.
In September 1997, another Grippa™ rack-based public share system was established as a pilot project in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, for the use of commuters, but was terminated the following year due to poorly functioning electronic bike racks.
CityBikes of Helsinki, Finland used a similar pay-through-advertising scheme adopted by Copenhagen's ByCylken, with distinctive yellow-green bicycles available at over 26 stands for a €2 deposit, refundable at any other stand. While this model of financing free community bike sharing programme has since spread to other cities, a lack of advertisers combined with constraints on public funding assistance resulted in a projected deficit of over EUR 1 million for Helsinki CityBikes. In both Copenhagen and Helsinki, vandalism continued to be a major aggravating factor in programme costs, requiring continual replacement of unrepairable bicycles at a cost of nearly 400 euros each. Because of these issues, Helsinki CityBikes terminated operations in 2010.
A disadvantage of municipal bike sharing programmes as implemented by Copenhagen and Helsinki has been the significant additional costs imposed due to bicycle theft and vandalism, resulting in additional law enforcement monitoring and more frequent bike repair/replacement. Because bikes in traditional municipal deposit programmes are not tracked and hirers are not traceable, theft deterrence is often designed into the bikes: very heavy, single-speed machines with proprietary components and undesirable paint schemes.
In 2001, the not-for-profit organisation BiCyBa released White Bicycles into public use in Bratislava, Slovakia. During the next three months all the bikes were stolen or destroyed, and the project was cancelled.
North American programs
United States programs
One of the first community bicycle projects in the United States was started in Portland, Oregon in 1994 by civic and environmental activists Tom O'Keefe, Joe Keating and Steve Gunther. It took the approach of simply releasing a number of bicycles to the streets for unrestricted use. While Portland's Yellow Bike Project was successful in terms of publicity, it proved unsustainable due to theft and vandalism of the bicycles. The Yellow Bike Project was eventually terminated, and replaced with the Create A Commuter (CAC) program, which provides free secondhand bicycles to certain preselected low-income and disadvantaged people who need a bicycle to get to work or attend job training courses. Since 1994, many community projects around the country have attempted programs similar in nature to the Yellow Bike Project, most of which have since been abandoned.
In 1996, a pilot bicycle share project known as the Orange Bike Project was organised in Tucson, Arizona by Bootstraps to Share, a homeless advocacy organisation inspired by the Bikes Not Bombs movement. Using funds from a taxpayer-funded government grant to obtain, recondition, and maintain 30 bicycles, project organisers announced plans to station the bicycles in downtown Tucson and areas adjacent to the University of Arizona. The publicly shared bicycles, painted bright orange by Earl Scheib to identify them, were primarily intended for use by the homeless or those without means of affordable transportation. The initial 30 bicycles placed into service for the Orange Bike Project were all stolen within a few weeks. A total of 80 bicycles were eventually used in the Orange Bike Project, all of which were either stolen or vandalised beyond repair. In one case, an Orange Bike Project bicycle was thrown in front of a freight train, in others, bikes were found with major frame damage consistent with deliberate vandalism. The program was terminated after only five months of operation.
In 1996, Madison, Wisconsin, instituted its Red Bikes Project, a public bike sharing program. These red-painted bicycles were available for the use of the general public, primarily in the student areas of State Street between the University of Wisconsin campus and the Wisconsin State Capitol. Initially, the only rule regarding the use of a Red Bikes Project bicycle was that it was required to remain outside and unlocked, and thus available for any passerby. After a surge in bicycle thefts and vandalism, the program was modified to require a valid credit card and $80 in security deposits for both the bicycle and the now-mandatory bicycle lock. The program is now only available seasonally, from spring (when all snow has melted) to 30 November.
In 2007, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Director of Bicycle Programs, Nicole Freedman, decided to bring bike sharing to the Boston area. In a metro area divided among many municipalities, it would have to span municipal boundaries. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning agency for the metro-Boston region of 101 cities and towns, joined the effort to operate a bike share in the Boston region. Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville also participated. In 2011, the metropolitan area of Boston launched its 60-station, 600-bike Hubway system, sponsored by the shoe manufacturer New Balance and funded in part by a $3 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, the contract to operate was awarded to Alta Bicycle Share. Bicycle-sharing was an immediate success, recording 100,000 station-to-station rides in its first two and a half months. After recording 140,000 trips in four months, Boston’s European-style bicycle-sharing system expanded outside of city limits, planting stations across Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline. Hubway has over 100 stations throughout the Greater Boston area.
In 2007, Bikes Belong, an advocacy group financed by major bicycle manufacturers, worked with city officials, local advocates, and the healthcare firm Humana to bring bikesharing to both the Republican and Democratic 2008 conventions. Called "Freewheelin!" the program offered 1,000 bicycles at 12 stations throughout the downtowns of the host cities, Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul, over the five days of each convention. Bikes Belong's stated goal was to provide a proof-of-concept that large-scale bicycle sharing that was exploding in European cities could work in U.S. cities and provide a valuable addition to the transportation mix. The program was popular among conventioneers, and helped the city of Denver to create a narrative around the "green" attributes of the convention. Both Denver and Minneapolis successfully pursued permanent bikesharing systems, with Denver B-cycle launching on April 22, 2010 as the first of its scale in the U.S., followed by Minneapolis' NiceRide system launching on June 10, 2010.
In Washington, D.C., a privately operated bike sharing project known as SmartBike DC opened for service in 2008 for the District of Columbia. Operated by a private advertising firm, Clear Channel Communications, SmartBike DC's annual operating costs were ostensibly funded by providing Clear Channel with prime advertising space at city bus shelters and other venues along with revenues from user subscription fees and charges. However, the program suffered from perennially low membership and rider usage rates, as well as a limited number of bike rental stations. After D.C. officials and Clear Channel failed to reach an agreement over expanded service, the program was officially terminated in January 2011.
In 2010, the District of Columbia launched a new system, Capital Bikeshare, this time funded and operated by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). This system was the largest bikeshare program in the United States until May 2013, with over 200 stations and annual ridership of more than two million. The system has expanded into the inner suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria in Virginia, with planned expansion into the Maryland suburbs. On April 22, 2013, Fort Worth Bike Sharing, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, launched a B-cycle system consisting of 300 bikes and 30 stations serving Downtown, Near Southside, and Cultural District in Fort Worth, Texas. Fort Worth B-cycle is included in a program called B-connected which allows members of over 15 participating B-cycle cities to use their annual memberships for free in other cities. Citi Bike opened in New York City in May 2013, with 6,000 bicycles and 330 docking stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. As of June 2013[update] Citi Bike is the largest bike sharing program in the United States.
In August 2013 the Bay Area Bike Share system began operating in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. The system allocated half of its 700 bicycle fleet in San Francisco, and the rest along the Caltrain corridor in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.
In May 2014, over 40 bicycles were stolen from Baltimore Recreation and Parks department's bike-share program. The bikes were stolen during the city's Ride Around Reservoir program in Druid Hill Park. The bikes were set up to be lent out when a group of youths took them. The cost of replacing the stolen bikes is "thousands of dollars" and is devastating to the program, which operates completely on donations.
In summer 2015, Zagster will launch a 115 bicycle, 15 station system on the Ohio State University campus. 
Canada's largest bike share system is the Bixi system. Started in Montreal in May 2009 as Bixi Montreal, it has expanded to over 5000 bicycles at 450 stations in that city. In June 2009 the design was used in Ottawa/Gatineau as Capital Bixi. In May 2011 Bixi Toronto opened, using now-standard Bixi equipment. The Bixi design has since been used in bike share systems around the world such as Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare, and London, UK's Barclay's Cycle Hire.
From 2001 to 2006, BikeShare, operated by the Community Bicycle Network (CBN) in Toronto, was for a time the most popular community bicycle sharing program in North America. Its initial success inspired launches of large-scale bike sharing programs such as Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare and Montreal's Bixi. BikeShare was intended to overcome some of the theft issues by requiring yearly memberships to sign out any of the 150 refurbished yellow bikes locked up at 16 hubs throughout central Toronto. At its height, over 400 members could sign out a bike from any hub for up to three days. The hubs were located at stores, cafes and community centres where the staff would volunteer their time to sign bikes out and in. Despite steadily increasing administrative, implementation, and maintenance costs, CBN could only charge users around 20 percent of actual costs, as users were unlikely to spend more than $50 per year for a membership. Without sufficient funds in the form of private and government grants, CBN was forced to discontinue BikeShare in 2006.
From 2005 to 2008, a largely unregulated bike sharing program was operated by the Peoples' Pedal organisation in Edmonton, Alberta. The program suffered from high theft and vandalism rates, with 95% of the bikes that had been placed into service stolen or missing by 2008. The program was terminated the same year.
In 2015, Sobi Hamilton began operation in Hamilton, Ontario. It uses Social Bicycles technology, in which all electronics are on the bicycles themselves. With over 100 stations, it is the second-largest system in Canada, and the only major system to not use Bixi technology.
Notes and references
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Community bicycle programs.|
- bike-sharing.org: world wide free bike sharing community
- Bicycle Sharing Systems Worldwide: Selected Case Studies
- Bikesharing in Europe, The Americas, and Asia: Past, Present, and Future, Susan Shaheen et al., Transportation Sustainability Research Center, UC Berkeley
- CycleStreet - Bicycle Rental & Free Bike Schemes
- Guide for cities to establish a Bike sharing program, EU financed Report on public bicycles
- List of community bike programs in the USA and worldwide
- Map of bicycle sharing schemes worldwide
- Map of community bike programs in North America
- Public Bikesharing in North America During a Period of Rapid Expansion: Understanding Business Models, Industry Trends and User Impacts, Mineta Transportation Institute
- Real Time Status Maps of Systems Worldwide
- The Bike Share Planning Guide, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), 2013.
- "Public bicycles in Paris and Lyon", The Washington Post
- "European Support for Bicycles Promotes Sharing of the Wheels", The New York Times