By Peter Rudegeair
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The rollout of New York City's bicycle-sharing program, to be the largest in the United States, will be delayed for two months and initially scaled back because of damage that bikes and docking systems sustained during Superstorm Sandy.
The city will push back the debut of Citi Bike, its self-service short-term bike rental program, to May 2013 from March in order to replace and refurbish many of the electrical components that were exposed to floodwater, the New York City Department of Transportation and New York City Bike Share said in a statement on Friday.
It is the second time the much-anticipated program, which resembles existing programs in Washington, D.C., Boston and Minneapolis, has been delayed in four months.
"Despite the damage, New York will have the nation's largest bike-share system up and running this spring," Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a statement.
About two-thirds of the system's equipment was housed at a facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on the edge of the East River before the storm, an area that was badly flooded.
Electronics in the bikes, which are equipped with GPS-navigation devices, and the docking stations, which make use of solar power arrays, were damaged, according to a spokesman for the Department of Transportation. In addition, about half of the bikes themselves were damaged, some requiring significant repair, the spokesman said in an email.
Only 5,500 bikes and about 300 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn would be operational in May, short of the 7,000 bikes and 420 stations the city previously said would be available at the program's launch.
By the end of the year, the program will grow to 7,000 bikes and will extend to Queens. At its peak, Citi Bike will offer 10,000 bikes at 600 stations in the three boroughs.
Originally scheduled to begin in July, Citi Bike was delayed until the spring of 2013 because of software issues.
The delays will not have an effect on the $41 million that Citigroup contributed to finance the system, the Department of Transportation and New York City Bike Share said.
(Reporting By Peter Rudegeair; Editing by Paul Thomasch)