100 Rides on CitiBike

kids citibike
My future CitiBikers

Last week I jumped on a CitiBike for the 100th time. Since I got my key in late June I have pedaled all over lower Manhattan, trekked to Brooklyn, yelled at cabbies, narrowly avoided pedestrians, saved a ton of money on subway and cab fare and seen our city from a brand new perspective.

My first ride in June took me from 14th Street up to 31st. Climbing on that bike for the first time and joining the riders all heading north on Sixth Avenue was a glorious adventure. The early summer sun felt invigorating as I maneuvered the heavy frame around cabs and delivery trucks. Although the ride lasted less than ten minutes and was barely a mile, it felt like a mini-epic.

My 100th ride started on 14th and took me to the Port Authority. I was rushing to meet my girlfriend who was just about to have a baby.  I jetted across town and up Eighth Avenue, easily beating a subway ride and probably besting a cab. And that ride, too, felt like a mini-epic.

One thing remains true after 100 rides. Using a bike to get around Manhattan is a great way to travel.

And a few random observations…

  • Traffic is not as hideous and formidable as one would think.
  • There are plenty of cyclists on the streets and the majority are not on CitiBikes.
  • Cabbies, pedestrians, drivers and cyclists are all idiots, it just depends on your mode of travel which ones are the idiots at that moment.
  • There aren’t enough bikes at rush hour, but they are working hard to fix that.
  • CitiBike has saved me a ton of money and is generally super convenient.
  • The bikes aren’t indestructible, but damn close. I hit a pothole that would have left me lying in the street with a broken collarbone and bent rim on a regular bike. On a Citibike I pounded right through it.
  • The big lesson is be patient and share the road. We are all traffic and we will all get to where we need to go.
  • AND you do NOT want to be this guy!

And let’s play point/counterpoint…

The bike lanes SUCK. Like any public space in the city, everyone thinks it belongs to them. The lanes set aside for cyclists are crowded with pedestrians, delivery trucks, street meat vendors and cabs. Don’t even think about enjoying a ride along Eighth Avenue during rush hour. It has become its own circle in Dante’s Hell. Keep your eyes open and take your time.

The bike lanes are AWESOME. I can’t believe the city set aside space just for bikes. First, Broadway, Eighth and Ninth Avenues have terrific standalone lanes. They are much safer than riding in traffic. The lanes on Sixth and Second are a bit more treacherous, but manageable. Plus, the lanes will take you all over the city in relative safety.

The CitiBike app SUCKS. The app alleges it has real-time stats on bike availability…and it is almost never right. They still can’t account for broken bikes. Nothing like showing up at a station promising bikes and find none or a bunch of broken ones.

Citibike app
Wow! 15 bikes waiting for me
no bikes citibike fail
Yes! One broken bike and 14 invisible ones

The CitiBike app is AWESOME. Want to know where the nearest station is located? It’s got you covered. Need the best route across town or out to Brooklyn? Another clutch feature is letting you know how many open stalls there are. Nothing worse than arriving at your destination and every stall is filled. The app will map it for you. I use this app almost every day.

For me Citibike has been a huge boost to my day-to-day routine. I get places faster, earlier and cheaper. It’s a blast to be fully engaged in the world around me while whizzing up or down the avenues. It even counts as exercise on super busy days. Every time I have the pedals beneath my feet I get that same glorious thrill I had with my first ride. Citibike may have plenty of haters, but it makes NYC an even better place. Get out there and take a ride.

One Week with CitiBike

I wanted to resist when I saw the bike stations pop up overnight. I wanted to fight back when I saw the rows of gleaming, new bikes. However, once I saw those first few riders navigating the streets of Manhattan, I succumbed and signed up for an annual CitiBike pass.

For three weeks I waited, enviously watching riders zip about town while i walked the sidewalk with the regular prisoners. Finally my CitiBike key arrived in the mail last weekend.

Now, it was time to ride.

Just one of 6,000 bikes

My first excursion wasn’t without problems, all of them traceable to my refusal to read the introductory packet. Stupid fine print. Three stations and a fair amount of head scratching later I finally sorted out how to unlock a bike and I was on my way.

I rode from 7th Avenue and 15th Street up to 7th and 31st. I must admit, it was glorious! The bike lane up 8th Ave was comfortably busy with fellow CitiBikers and plenty of other cyclists. The breeze and ease of my commute mitigated the heat and humidity. I pulled into my destination station just steps away from work, locked it up and headed inside.

I’ve taken ten rides so far. Seven of them would have been cab or subway rides. Three were walkable, but biking it was so much fun and much faster. At $2.50 a subway ride the annual pass should pay for itself quickly.

The CitiBike app is a must-have

Availability around the busier transportation hubs can be tricky so prepare to know where all the nearby stations are located. The CitiBike app is a great help showing realtime availability as well as best routes for getting around the city.

The bikes are solid, heavy and slow which is perfect for pounding the potholes of New York City’s streets. The brakes are good and the ride is comfortable. With only three gears and 40 pounds of bike, there won’t be any land speed records broken, but that seems to be by design. They are built for durability, not speed.

Take your pick. Plenty of bikes on 31st Street

After one week I am hooked. Let’s hope the city supports and builds out the program across all five boroughs. While there are plenty of detractors, this is a service that could positively impact the city in so many ways.

Get out there and ride. Then let me know what you think. Happy riding!