Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo
Yes, the program has taken (or is that “is taking”) longer to fully roll out
Self-portrait after my first ride.
than planned. True, the bikes are heavy
. No, there still
aren’t bikes in my neighborhood. And yes, the inevitable lawsuits
have already begun to be filed. Overall, though, I’m loving the Citi Bike,
and that’s especially nice because I didn’t expect to.
When I first heard that a massive, city-wide bike share program was finally coming to New York, I was thrilled. After all, my former home, Mexico City, had had a bike share program in place for several years before New York even started getting serious about the possibility of such a program.
But then, as I started reading about the logistics of the NYC bike share program, sponsored by CitiBank, I was a lot less jazzed. The pricing and use plans simply didn’t make sense to me. While it was great that I wouldn’t have to store a bike in my tiny apartment, what was the advantage of riding a bike if the dock was farther away from my apartment than the nearest subway station? Why would I want a bike only for an hour? How, exactly, did the pricing really work? And would I really be bold enough to brave riding alongside crazed drivers?
It wasn’t until my friend Nancy, who I’d never even known to have been on a bike, explained the program’s logistics to me that I was convinced CitiBike was worth signing up for. You pay $95 a year to have unlimited access to bikes, which you pick up and then drop off at docking stations around the city. You don’t have to worry about bike locks because the docks are practically everywhere… at least in Manhattan. You use the bike for short trips, errands, and powerhouse cycling workouts (the latter is my plan, anyway) and if you need a bike for longer than the allotted hour you’re given, you simply dock that bike and take out another.
New Yorkers contemplate the Citi Bike.
Francisco and I signed up and share a key. So far, he uses the bike more often than I do, but my virgin trip down 2nd Avenue during the UN General Assembly a couple weeks ago was thrilling (except for the last push uphill, when I finally had to admit to myself, panting, that I wasn’t yet in shape enough for some routes). I’m not confident enough to go sailing down busier avenues–yes, the city has bike lanes, but plenty of drivers don’t respect them–so for now, at least, most of my cycling is restricted to the Hudson River’s Waterfront Greenway.
Staff unloads CitiBikes at a dock on 8th Avenue.
The bike share program has a long way to go. For one thing, most of us who live in the “outer” boroughs don’t yet have docks in our neighborhoods, so we’re still dependent on the subway or bus to get us into Manhattan before we can use a bike. For another, there are no family-friendly bike options. If you want to ride with your kid, well, you can’t. I suspect that’s for liability reasons and, equally likely, space considerations; the docking stations are already squeezed into tight spots, so the extra equipment that would allow a parent to haul a little one in a strap on seat or in a trailer just isn’t feasible. But I suspect these issues will get ironed out in due time. For now, I’m pretty pleased with the program and can’t wait until it arrives in our neighborhood.