How You Know You’re A CitiBike Pro

By raw numbers, New York City’s new bike share system, CitiBike, has been a runaway success. In the first 10 days of operation – some 35,000+ riders have logged 100,000 rides and travelled more than 270,000 miles – enough to get to the moon (and partway back).

The research staff at the Rudin Center – transportation nerds that we are – all signed up the day CitiBike registration opened, and have been actively using the system since Day 1. As an East Village resident from 2000 to 2010, I was an avid biker on the streets of Manhattan. But when I moved across the river to Hoboken in 2010, I lost touch with New York’s bike culture. Dragging a bike on the PATH is a major headache. Taking one on the ferry, a major expense. So my new acquantanice with Citbike has also become a re-acquaintance with how utterly wonderful and simultaneously awful New York City is as a place to ride a bike.


Log of my first 10 days of CitiBike trips.

Nonetheless, according to my CitiBike account logs, I’ve taken a total of 15 trips in the last 10 days – some as short as 3 minutes. And it occurred to me today how quicky I’ve integrated the system into my daily movements around the city. I feel like I’ve already become a Citibike Pro User.

And in honor of that realization, I’ve come up with the Rudin Center’s Top 10 List “You Know You’re A CitiBike Pro When….”


#10 -You’ve Worked CitiBike Into Your Commute, Deliberately to Deprive the MTA of Subway or Bus Fare

Bikeshare at the Christopher St & Hudson St corner = happy PATH commuters!

For me, getting to my office at the Puck Building used to mean a 25-minute walk across SoHo from the Christopher Street PATH Station, or a transfer to the F train somewhere along Sixth Avenue. Now, as long as the skies are dry, I’m keeping the $2.50 the MTA wants to take me 10 blocks. The MTA has been sticking it to us for decades. Time to stick it back! Thanks Citibike!

While we’re on the MTA…




#9 – You’ve Jumped Off A Crawling Crosstown Bus to Make the Trip to the [insert: East/West Side] By Bike Instead

Just yesterday I tried getting from Grand Central Terminal to the 39th Street Ferry Terminal on the M42. What a cruel joke. 20 minutes later, barely past Bryant Park, I hopped off and grabbed a bike on W. 43rd street. Five minutes and 36 seconds later, I arrive on the banks of the Hudson. Straight onto the boat, having purchased my ticket at a red light on the NY Waterway app, I’m out of the city – it was like some kind of postmodern urban escape rocket.

#8 - You’ve Scared the Daylights Out of at Least One Pedestrian

This is New York. We are mean people. Size matters. Speed matters. Get out of my way.

#7 – You’ve Realized The Stunning Number of Things Other Than Bikes That Inhabit New York City’s Bike Lanes

Postal trucks, pedestrians, construction barriers, UPS trucks, taxis loading/offloading, food carts, food trucks, dead pigeons, etc. etc. etc. Sometimes I think they should call them “Bikes and Stuff”  lanes.

#6 – Despite Your Best Intentions to Obey Traffic Laws, You’ve Riden the Wrong Way Down A Bike Lane or A One-Way Street

I told myself from Day 1 I’d obey the rules, but sometimes the detours needed to stay legal can double the length of a short trip between two CitiBike stations (for instance, the contortions needed to get to the station in front of the Puck Building when coming from the northwest add 4-5 minutes). And so, I’ve just given in and started (like everyone else on a bike) riding south on the Lafayette Street bike lane.

New Yorkers are jaywalkers, and everyone accepts that, right? This is just New York’s timeless mobility culture expressing itself in a new medium. Or at least that’s what I tell myself at night.

#5 – You’ve Figured Out That If A Dock Is Full or Empty at Either End of Your Journey, There’s Almost Always One Available 2-3 Minutes Away

Proceed to the next station, then. No big deal. Quit whining.


#4 – You’ve Dropped Your Coffee and Broken Into A Sprint When You See This

Or this.

‘Nuff said.

(p.s. Unlock bonus points if you’ve zoomed in far enough to see the cool 3-d building detail in the CitiBike app’s maps.)

#3 – You’ve Figured Out What the F—ing Inscrutable Light System Means

Oh you mean the one that isn’t documented -anywhere-? Not on the stations, not in the app, not on the CitiBike website?

Yeah that one. Sure to get the “Worst UX” award this year.

(And BTW, its “Green = please steal me, the guy trying to rent me got bored waiting for the yellow light and walked away but I’ll unlock anyway after he’s gone”, “Yellow = please wait, my crappy wireless Internet is slow/not working”, and “Red = I’m broken…. again”)


#2 – You Have Reconciled In Your Mind the Irony of Those Who Would Criticize CitiBike (What Is Essentially A Giant Roving Bank Advertisement Pushed By a Billionaire Mayor)… as “Socialism”

(thanks to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang @askpang in Silicon Valley for that detached observation)

and the winner…

#1 – You’ve Figured Out How to Unlock the Bike and Simultaneously Adjust the Seat Height With A Single Well-Timed Yank

It’s like learning how to snap your fingers for the first time. Look me up in SoHo, I’m happy to show you how it’s done.


One thought on “How You Know You’re A CitiBike Pro

Leave a Reply