As someone who works in the city, I was an early adopter to CitiBike and love using it for quick bike rides in the city when I don't need to use the subway or a taxi. I don't have a major fear of riding in the city, and enjoy the freedom that CitiBike provides.
When Hoboken announced they were doing a bike share, I was ecstatic. I live on the south end of Hoboken, and I don't own a car. Up until this point I would use Uber if I wanted to visit areas around the north end of town, and contemplated buying a bicycle, but was worried about bike theft. I had a few friends in City Hall, and asked - are we getting CitiBike??
Nope, the city decided to go with NextBike, a German company that develops and operates public bike-sharing systems. Like many people, I was unhappy. I really wanted CitiBike, I loved their bikes, the system and everything about it.
But, I am pretty good at adapting so I waited...and waited for NextBike to roll out.
Once it arrived, I decided to try it for two weeks and then write this. So this is my report based upon my yearly membership with CitiBike and yearly membership with NextBike. One caveat is that NextBike doesn't have all their stations completed, yet, so I will cover that later.
Ease of Use to Rent:
CitiBike - With CitiBike I have a FOB which I insert into the station receptacle, it pauses for about 10 seconds to verify and unlocks the bike from the magnetic lock. Its quick to get your bike.
NextBike - With NextBike, I use an app to rent a bike. The initial set up was a bit annoying, but must say the customer support staff from Europe are very helpful. Once I got the App working, I simply enter the bike # into the app, and it gives me an unlock code. I press "OK" on the back of the bike, enter my unlock code, and the lock at the front of the bike unlocks. It's slower than CitiBike, the whole process takes about 30-45 seconds.
CitiBike - CitiBikes have 3 speed settings, a front rack to store items and adjustable seats. I think CitiBike is slightly lighter and easier to ride.
NextBike - NextBikes have 7 speed settings, a front rack to store items and adjustable seats.
Edge: Even. As much as I prefer CitiBike, the 7 speed settings for NextBike is great for parts of Hoboken that have hills.
Ease of Use While Riding:
CitiBike - CitiBike has a TON of stations in Manhattan, and you basically can walk about 3 blocks to find the closest station. Its pretty easy to park and bike and then rent another one. However, I did run into a problem once when I parked my bike near Katz's Delicatessen. There were NO BIKES in the CitiBike station, and once I ate at Katz's and came back to the station, my bike was already re-rented. I had to track down another bike, about 3 blocks away. Which isn't bad, but I was trying to eat at Katz's for my 1 hour lunch break, and this cost me time.
NextBike - NextBike has a great feature. While renting a bike for 45 minutes, you can park your bike anywhere, temporarily lock it, and then return and resume your rental. This feature is far and beyond NextBike's crowning glory. I will explain. My most common use for the bike is every Monday and Wednesday I get a food delivery from Kettlebell Kitchen. They deliver to Crossfit Hoboken. I get off the PATH, rent a NextBike, and ride from the PATH to the other end of town at Newark and Jackson. Normally this is a 15 minute walk for me from the PATH. Instead I rent the bike, and it takes me 3-4 minutes. I park my bike, hit the "C" on the keypad (which is the pause key if you will), and then lock my bike. I go inside Crossfit Hoboken, pick up my food, and then ride back to the City Hall station to drop off my bike. Unfortunately, the station close to my house isn't ready yet, which stinks.
Station Location & Bike Availability
CitiBike - CitiBike has a ton of stations, but there are some flaws with it. Multiple times I have found empty stations, or stations that are too full of bikes. Its annoying when you are done riding and have to run around looking for a place to park your bike. But, CitiBike simply has a ton of great locations, and you can even ride in Jersey City too with a CitiBike, unlike NextBike which is mostly limited to Hoboken city borders.
NextBike - Another key feather in NextBike's cap is the ability to park your bike at a full station. I did this yesterday. I parked my bike at the City Hall station, and read the instructions - simply lock my bike, hit "OK" on the keypad (verify return) and leave it next to the other bikes. I did this. It was quick and simple. My only complaint is I wish we had more stations in Hoboken and also wish more places we could park in Jersey City. However there are "No Fee Zones" in Jersey City. These are places where you can rent a bike in Hoboken, ride into Jersey City, 'return' the bike to a zone. The danger is that a bike "may or may not" be there when you need it again. Free Zones are by the Newport PATH, Grove Street PATH, Exchange Place PATH and Liberty State Park. It would be nice if they could add one near Hamilton Park, there's a lot of great restaurants i'd like to try around there.
CitiBike costs $149.99 a year (regular pricing)
NextBike costs $95 a year (regular pricing)
I'm not giving any edge on pricing, either you use it or you don't. In two weeks I used the NextBike about 4 times. Rather than paying for a taxi, I used a NextBike. Both bike services pay for themselves, if you use the enough - and I do.
My concerns with Hoboken is we need City Hall to do the following:
1. We need bike lanes that are ENFORCED. That means cops need to ticket and tow double parked cars in the bike lane (i'm looking at YOU, cars outside of Piccolo's and Fiore's).
2. We need to also crack down from people riding on the sidewalk.
3. I would love to see Court Street turned into a bicycle-only road. It would allow riders to ride a few blocks without having to be worried about cars.
NY DOT has been investing heavily in street redesigns like this one on Amsterdam avenue. City Hall has also made such proposals for Observer Highway and Washington Street. We need more of these types of streets that protect bike riders from traffic and opened doors. Fortunately, the design doesn't take away from allowing on-street parking.
My final verdict is the following: I'm actually very happy with NextBike, but would have been estatic if we had CitiBike. As much as NextBike has certain design elements that make it great, I think having ONE system with Jersey City would have been far superior rather than two bike sharing systems. But, that isn't the fault of Hoboken, a lot of people don't know that CitiBike never submitted a proposal to Hoboken in the first place. They simply weren't interested in building here.
At the end of the day, I think Mayor Zimmer deserves some praise here. Its actually a very good system. I think if she actually able to redesign Hoboken streets into being more bike friendly then I think she will have really done a great job. For now, its just a good job. :)