Citi Bike: One Month In. A Review and Recap

Citi Bike launched one month ago and the reactions have ranged from euphoric to hysteric. My personal experiences have been largely favorable and with one month of use I have some feedback to share.

Obviously, I’m a fan of cycling and generally support anything that promotes and encourages cycling, so keep that in mind.

The Bike:  The Citi Bike is heavier and wider than most bikes I ride, which makes it slower and less maneuverable.  It also makes for stable ride over rough pavement and a very upright riding position that makes seeing what is going on around you easier.  The seat height is easy to adjust, although at 6’5″ I wish it would go a little higher (seat height size current varies from 1-10, but 11 would be ideal).  There are three gears, which do not allow for much resistance and make speeding up almost entirely dependent on spinning the pedals faster, but they do make small hills only minor obstacles.  The front mounted bike rack has worked well with every bag I have used so far, but a large or awkwardly shaped bag could be problematic.  Overall, the bike is solid, but a taller seat post and more gears would be preferred.

The Stations:  The Citi Bike stations are just about every where below 60th Street in Manhattan, which makes finding a station really easy, although finding a station with bikes or empty docks is often a very different story.  Station coverage in Brooklyn is fairly minimal and while I don’t have first hand experience it sounds like empty and full stations are especially problematic in Brooklyn.  Getting a bike from the dock is fairly simple (lift from the seat), as is returning a bike (make sure you get a greenlight).  I experienced a number of glitches during the first two weeks, including multiple stations that did not have power preventing the check out and return of bikes.  The main issue that is still on going is the distribution of bicycles, as certain stations seem to either have zero bike or zero available docks.  In central midtown, this is particularly noticeable, as some stations are full after 9am and completely empty after 6pm.  Improving this will be key to expanding the system.  The next phase should include the Upper East and West Sides, more of Brooklyn and some of Queens.

The Value:  As soon as I could, I signed up for an annual member that totaled $103.43 after tax was add to the $95.00 base.  Given the number of subway, bus and taxi trips that have already been replaced I estimate I’ve saved $45 after covering the annual membership fee, so I’d strongly encourage everyone to sign up for an annual membership if you plan to spend much time in Manhattan and Northern Brooklyn.

The Good:  Citi Bike greatly improves transportation options in many places, particularly crosstown trips, the far West side of Manhattan (Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen), the Lower East Side and many others.

  • More people on bikes makes everyone who cycles safer, as there is a safety in numbers effect
  • Bikes are sturdy and good for most people most of the time
  • This was launched without any tax payer funding
  • Great value for those that often take short cab rides or transit
  • Most of the people I’ve seen riding Citi Bikes have been good ambassadors for cycling (obeying traffic laws, yielding to pedestrian and staying off sidewalks)
  • So far, there have been no reported bike and pedestrian injuries as a result of Citi Bike

The Bad:  Citi Bike faces a serious challenge with supply and demand for bikes and docking stations. With so many people cycling into midtown during the day and cycling out at night, there needs to be some changes made to ensure people have confidence in finding a bike and then being able to dock it.

  • Empty or Full Stations
  • Significant and persistent glitches during the first few weeks was far from a perfect start.
  • The location of some stations has been fairly controversial and will likely continue for the foreseeable future
  • Expansion into other areas may be slow and create repeats of issues
  • Not all people riding Citi Bikes have been good ambassadors for cycling and a few have been downright idiots.
  • More tickets are being given to cyclists in Citi Bike areas (via Gothamist)

The Ugly:  

  • Irrational Bike Hate (ex. NY Post, Dorothy Rabinowitz and others)
  • NIMBYs

Citi Bike Stats For The First Month (as of 5pm 6/26):

  • Trips:  528,991
  • Miles Traveled:  1,287,563
  • Annual Members:  49,422
  • Average Miles per Trip:  2.43
  • Total annual, weekly and daily subscriptions purchased:  113,692
  • Average number of rides on each Citi Bike:  88

Some Personal Stats From The First Month:

  • Trips:  50
  • Miles Traveled:  86.8
  • Time:  10 hours 27 minutes
  • Average Trips per Day:  1.67
  • Average Miles per Trip:  1.74
  • Average Trip Duration:  12 minutes 56 seconds
  • Average Speed:  8.3 miles per hour