Citi Bike launched this weekend—so what's it like to ride one?
New York City's new bike-sharing program kicked off on Monday. We've road-tested the bikes; here's everything you need to know.
Tue May 28 2013
Photograph: Lauren Reddy
After years of planning and delays, Citi Bike, NYC's new bike-sharing program, finally launched on Monday. Despite a few snags—some members hadn't received their keys by launch day, and the Citi Bike app's map had glitches all day yesterday—by the end of day one, more than 6,000 rides had been taken, with more than 13,000 miles covered. Those are impressive stats right out of the gate—and hopefully Citi Bike will continue to provide details in the coming postlaunch days and weeks.
RECOMMENDED: Bike New York guide
I signed up for the program at the first opportunity, and have ridden the bikes a couple of times; here are some of my impressions from riding so far. (Background: I already own a two-wheeler, but am fairly inexperienced in terms of city cycling; I mostly pedal for fun, rather than to commute. So your mileage may vary.)
The bikes are heavy—but that's not a bad thing. The weight—each Citi Bike is 45 pounds—can be a hindrance, depending on how you're using them. My boyfriend rode one across the Manhattan Bridge this morning and had this to say: "I had to stop halfway through and catch my breath. Not gonna take those over bridges again." If you're used to riding a lightweight road bike, you may feel the same way. But "it's fun and convenient on flatter roads," he added. I can attest to that sentiment: I took a bike from South Ferry to the Javits Center this morning, and the ride along the West Side Highway bike path—which is mostly flat—was easy and fun.
The seats are not particularly comfortable. Citi Bike isn't intended for long rides, so this shouldn't be too much of an issue, but riders, be warned: The dreaded bike-butt is a possibility.
Getting them in and out of the docking stations can be difficult at first. But it only takes a couple of rides to get the process down. When you're removing a bike, be sure to grip underneath the seat and pull up; it'll pop out of the dock more easily that way. Getting the bikes back in is trickier, and requires a bit of shoving to ensure that your ride locks. Look for the green light when you're putting a bike back; that's how you know it's actually locked.
You will get asked a lot of questions. I got stopped by four people this morning who wanted to know about the program: I got asked about pricing, what riding the bikes was like, and how easy the program is to use. I didn't get berated or encounter anyone who was reacting negatively to Citi Bike; on the contrary, everyone seemed genuinely curious and into the bike-sharing concept.
You will also probably feel like a dork. It's kind of inevitable—the bikes stick out, they're brand-new, and the Citibank logo plastered all over them is kind of ridiculous. But there's also a sense of community among riders; I've gotten plenty of thumbs-up and nods of recognition from fellow Citi Bikers, which has been nice.
Sharing stuff with total strangers can be a little gross. While it's unlikely that ridership will approach the number of people who take the subway each day, the fact remains that you're using a bike that others have ridden before you—which means there may be sweat on the seats and handlebars. If you want to help alleviate bike ickiness, Gothamist has some advice on how to keep the cycles clean for everyone—I'll be packing antibacterial wipes from here on out.
The convenience may be the best part. I live in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, and work in Hell's Kitchen (TONY's office is near the Javits Center). Up to this point, I haven't tried riding to work because—if I'm being honest—the thought of starting my workday with a nearly eight-mile ride is a little daunting. Bike sharing helps alleviate that concern; my ride today was less than five miles and let me circumvent the East River bridges—none of which are convenient for my commute. Plus, I don't have to carry a bulky lock with me, only my helmet. The program makes getting around a lot easier, and that, to me, is the biggest value.
For more from Citi Bike's launch day, check out a short that StreetFilms produced below. And let us know what you think—have you tried the bike-sharing program? Will you sign up for it?
Follow Amy Plitt on Twitter: @plitter
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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)