CitiBike. Bike Sharing. Whoop de fucking doo.
Who cares about bike sharing? Limp wristed liberals...amirite?
OK, stop right there. It IS awesome, and I will tell you why, sir or madam. Lets start with the basics of CitiBike.
All over Manhattan are docking stations. These stations hold the bikes in a "bay", which is controlled by magnetic locks. You can use a docking station key (which is bought online) or your credit card to rent a bike. A coworker of mine had a key which I could use, and gives me 45 minutes of free bike time per use. I would suggest watching a video on how to dock and unlock a CitiBike:
Docking stations are pretty convenient, and there's an app which you can download which shows you the closest docking station. Most of them seem to be within a 4 block walk of each other, so the city is canvassed with these docking stations, making them fairly easy to find (more on this later).
The city also has tons of bike lanes. If you were to be a frequent reader of another local blog in town that hates bike lanes & bike sharing & anything that Dawn Zimmer does (she could cure cancer, and they would still fault her for not curing Parkinsons) - but I know that bike lanes are important and should be enforced and respected (especially after testing them).
So, what do we know? It's easy to rent them. There's a bunch of docking stations. Bike lanes make it easy to navigate the city streets. I have a cute French Bulldog named Rocco (how did this get in there? -editor)
And the one key thing that makes it great: It "opens" up the city.
What does that mean? Opens up the city. Well, let me tell you.
I work in a great part of the city called the West Village. It's picturesque. The city that you mostly see on Hollywood TV (they film here every week for TV shows like "Person of Interest" and "Elementary"). Lots of cute boutiques, stores and restaurants but a significant lack of "lunch spots". It was a trillion times worse about 6 years ago, and it has gotten better, with new places opening up, but there was a time in which you had three choices for lunch within a 10 minute walk: a deli, Chinese food, Indian food, or McDonalds. That's it. Often we were told by delivery people we were too far away and they won't deliver to us.
Today it's not so bad, but we are still a bit off the beaten path. One day last week I said, "We should get Shake Shack."
"Too far to walk. And they don't deliver.", the Chorus from work said back.
"We should use the CitiBike. I'm sure I could ride there in less then 10 minutes from here.", I replied.
"If YOU are going to ride there, we are in!", they cheerfully replied.
And so began my experiment as a delivery guy. My co-worker gave me his CitiBike "Key", and my nearest docking station was three blocks away. I had a few problems with the key at first - I didn't understand which way to insert it (begin jokes here) & once unlocked, I found using the bike lane a bit troublesome with very crowded cross-streets (like at Houston & West Side Highway) - people basically ignored the bike lane, and its a bit like playing "Frogger" on a bike. Not for the meek.
Since when am I meek? I was able do work my way across (Out of my way people! I have a package to deliver!) - zipped down the West Street Highway bike path (its a dream!), and then docked my bike at the Battery Park Ferry. Two block walk to Shake Shack. Ordered food, went back to the docking station. I strapped down my bag full of burgers on the front of the bike which had a very handy basket with a bungee cord attachment to hold small bags in place:
Back to work & we were happily munching on Shake Shack burgers for lunch. Total time was 10 minutes to bike there each way, and 10 minutes to order. Plus it was a nice day outside, and it was fun to get off the desk.
While we were basking in a post-burger glow, a co-worker said, "This was great. Next week - you gotta get us Katz's Deli with a CitiBike."
I mapped out my route that I needed to ride & where I could dock my bike near Katz's. Rode down Bleeker Street which was really simple...until I got to Bowery Street. For those who don't know Bowery Street is a major New York thorofare like Broadway or Canal Street, but not like a "highway" like West Street or FDR drive (you wouldn't have a bike on here, anyhow). Things got a bit more tricky on these roads just due to the amount of traffic and the general disdain by these driver for people on bikes. You could feel their seething wrath for pedestrains, bike, small children and adorable French Bulldogs that have 6500 fans on Facebook (What's with the bulldog reference?? -editor).
More of a minor issue than a major one, but when planning to ride around the city its not a bad idea to stay off the major roads, in my humble opinion. I have watched enough reddit videos from China, India and Russia on what happened to motorcycles & bikes versus tractor trailers & trucks.
I did run into my first issue at Katz's Deli - empty docking stations. The problem with the popularity of the CitiBike is its success. After I dropped off my bike at a completely empty docking station, went to the deli & returned in 10 minutes, the bike was rented by someone else. Using my iPhone app, the cloeset station with free bikes was at least 8 blocks away (a station was 4 blocks away, but empty & a second station was 4 blocks away in the opposite direction I was going with one bike. I didn't want to risk walking there to find it empty - so I walked 8 blocks to the next free station).
I rode back to work, and my docking station had 2 free spots. Not a big deal, but the other problem are areas that have no free spots at a docking station - and you have to find a free spot to park. Like I wrote, most stations are 4 blocks from each other so finding a free spot shouldn't be TOO difficult. I think in the future the people who manage CitiBikes will figure out where to add more docking stations or bikes to offset this problem, depending on usage.
But - we had our Pastrami on Rye's and I had my Turkey Rachel. Co-workers were excited and the security guards eyes bugged out when they saw me walk in with a Katz's Deli bag - and pleaded with me to let them order, too, next time.
On a side note, if you check seamless.com or delivery.com for delivery - they can charge you $20 per delivery & you have to order $75 worth of food to get Katz's delivered to you. Hell, you could take a taxi for $10 each way. The bike is a much cheaper alternative to taking a taxi. I didn't find that it made me too sweaty (however, I would not recommend wearing anything other than casual clothes), but my heart rate did jump a bit versus walking.
I'm signing up today for the annual pass. Even if I don't live in the city, I have often found myself looking to walk to places that were within the 10-20 block radius, which is too short for a taxi and too far for an easy walk - just grab a CitiBike to get around for now on.