The City of Chicago wants to launch a large-scale bicycle-sharing program, with a goal of 3,000 bikes by July 2012 and 2,000 more over the next two years. The Chicago Department of Transportation (IL) issued a request for proposals yesterday, seeking a company to operate the program. “We view this as a new transit system that’s self-powered,” said CDOT commissioner Gabe Klein. “The idea is to have so many stations, it’s easy to get from one point to another quickly. It fills in the gap in the existing transit system and allows people to pick up a bike at one location and drop it off at their destination.” Plans are for the first 30 minutes to be free, with riders paying a graduated fee for longer trips. Federal grants will cover the initial program costs; the city expects membership fees, user charges, advertising, and sponsorships to cover ongoing costs. The city currently has a tourist-oriented bikeshare program with 100 bicycles. Link to full story in Chicago Sun-Times.