In New York for the weekend, I had to try out Citi Bike, the local bikeshare system. Having sampled various bikeshare systems across the country, I was eager to see how the nation’s largest system operated. With only three major bikeshare system in the U.S. (PBSC, B-cycle and SoBi), I didn’t expect the bike to be different from other PBSC-based systems, but biking around NYC is fun!
After breakfast at Chelsea Market, the next stop on our tour was the 9/11 Memorial. While our group opted for the subway, my wife and I walked across the street and signed up for a 24 hour CitiBike pass. The kiosk has a decal stating: “MasterCard-preferred”, but I tried using my Visa. After a brief moment of frustration, I called the number on the kiosk and talked to “Mike”. He indicated that the transaction did not go trough and try another credit card; perhaps a MasterCard if its available. (It is). It was probably a good thing I called because Mike filled me in on how to access bikes for subsequent trips. (“Request New Code”) I whipped out my MasterCard, breezed through the instructions and received two 5-digit codes (consisting of only 1s, 2s and 3s) to unlock our bikes from the terminals. With bikes in hand, we adjusted the seats and began pedaling south on Hudson Street through the West Village. Not to worry, some of the bike lanes were blocked by double parked cars and taxis. Continuing south on 7th Avenue, the traffic here was a little heavy for my wife’s liking so we meandered over to the Hudson River Greenway and followed this choice bike route south. We found a CitiBike station not far from our final destination and returned our bikes.
As we planned on heading to Herald Square, I opted for bikeshare while my wife opted for the subway. No problem: This would be our own unofficial time trial. I picked up a bike at Bowling Green and headed back toward the greenway. A section of the path was closed, but a well marked detour with ‘bike blazes’ helped me through pedestrian heavy Pumphouse Park. Back on the greenway, I managed a leisure pace. The low gearing of the bike is great for amateur ‘no resistance’ riding. Sadly, the bike I picked up had the loosest, rickety bottom bracket I’ve ever used. I swapped this bike at the station on 34th Street and 11th Avenue, where I activated the maintenance light at the dock. (Yeah, come fix this bike right here.) The ‘new’ bike was a little tighter, which I needed on 34th Street. On the greenway and other streets with and without bike lanes, I noticed a plethora of cyclists. The 50 degree temps and abundant December sunlight was bringing everyone outside. Not so much on W 34th Street. Heavy traffic and poor pavement conditions made this stretch not so pleasant. The low gearing doesn’t make speeding through yellow lights easy: I had to get up on that Citi Bike like a BMXer pedaling out of the 1st turn. I returned this bike to one of the Herald Square stations and arrived a full half hour ahead of my wife. This gave me time to observe the hoards of pedestrians oblivious to the Broadway cycletrack they were walking in; kinda like around the Inner Harbor.
Overall, I really like CitiBike. My experience was accentuated by the number of bike lanes, cycletracks and greenways to choose from. I used the CitiBike app to locate stations and bike routes, but wish the bikes had a smart phone holder. Sure would make navigation easier. See the below Google “Biking Directions” screen shots at similar map scales. Despite NYC being a much more densely developed city, the connectivity of its bike infrastructure makes bikeshare work even better. Note that the Citi Bike system is operational in Manhattan south of Central Park and in Brooklyn, where the bike infrastructure is already in place.