Citibikes Invade the city


In case you haven't been in NYC in the last month or so, New York City has been besieged with electronic racks of bikes from 59th street to the southern tip of Manhattan and the western part of Brooklyn including DUMBO and Williamsburg.  These short, grey plastic monuments have been strategically placed and loaded with the Citibank sponsored blue bikes for New Yorkers and visitors to use as a commuting alternative to cars, subway and walking.  They became available to use for 24 hour periods on June 2nd and I took it for a ride. 

First the details: For $10 plus tax you get unlimited use of the bikes for a 24 hour period.  The caveat is that the city only wants you to use them for 30 minute stretches.  You get 30 minutes to find another citibike rack and dock your bike.  If you go over the 30 minutes you are charged an additional fee: 30-60 minutes late, an extra $4, 60-90 minutes late, an extra $13 and then $12 for every 30 minutes after that.  So you can see that if you are planning on using a bike to use all day to tour around, it might be better to just rent from a bike rental company where rates range from $30-50 for a day.  1.You won't be constantly looking at your watch and 2.You won't be trying to find another rack station with open space.

Now, how did it go...Not bad.  Considering that it was the first day of a HUGE technological roll-out, I was impressed.  It took a couple card swipes to get a code that worked to unlock my first bike.  This was a little frustrating because when I tried to call the toll free number, you could not get through to anyone.  Persistence was the key here.  Once I got my bike, it was easy to adjust the seat and it worked great.  The front bag holder is really handy and thoughtful.  Also helpful is an iPhone App that should be downloaded as it has all the rack locations, your current location, how many bikes and how many rack spaces are available at each station.  My first docking experience was seamless and I was able to get a new bike in a couple minutes.  This is done by swiping the same card used to do the initial purchase. Once that is done you will get a new code.  At some stations, I had to do this a couple times as sometimes the codes did not work. Again persistence is the key.  There were a couple stations that I found to be out of service so I was unable to dock a bike and it had me scrambling to find the next closest station before my 30 minutes expired. 

My feeling on this new program, I like it.  This is a great alternative to taxis, the subway, skateboards, etc. as a commuting option.  Again, there are some kinks and that is to be expected.  But overall, I thought it worked pretty well and will seriously look at doing the year option for $100.