Your Bike Share Questions, Answered

Friday, May 24, 2013 - 11:50 AM

Is Citi Bike's color "dazzling?" Color experts at Pantone say yes. (Alex Goldmark)

What's with no helmets?  What if there's no room in the docking station?  Aren't I going to sweat?  Everything you really wanted to know about bike share but were afraid to ask, answered here.

So, an extremely devoted following has been watching this space ever since we first broke the news that bike share was coming to New York, back in November, 2010. For everyone who hasn't been paying such close attention, here are your questions, answered.

1. What's with not having helmets?

Would you want to rent a helmet from a kiosk?  No, gross.  Citi Bike recommends you use a helmet.  So do we.  In Montreal, which has had North America's oldest large-scale bike share, you can buy all sorts of cute briefcases and bags with helmet pockets.  However, if you don't wear a helmet (only children under 14 are required by law to wear a helmet) Washington DC's Capital bike share does note that accident rates are lower among bike share users.  They speculate that's because the bikes are heavy (45 pounds!) thus hard to barrel through lights on.  But, wear a helmet. 

2.  Cool, bike share is starting right at the same time as beach season.  Can I ride my bike share to the beach?

You could, but it's probably a bad idea.  You only get to use the bike for 45 minutes for free.   After that, you start paying steeply escalating fees -- $2.50 if you ride it up to an hour and fifteen minutes, then nine dollars for up to 90 minutes and nine dollars for every additional 30 minutes. (Daily and weekly members: you only get 30 minutes. Up to an hour costs $4.00, up to 90 minutes $13.00, and each additional 30 minutes is $12.00 more).

Plus, there are no docking stations in Coney Island or the Rockaways or Orchard Beach, so you have to stay on or with your bike.  If you leave it, and it's stolen, you're on the hook for $1,000 bucks. Answer: If you want to ride to the beach on a bike, rent one from a rental agency for a day and bring a lock.  Don't use a Citi Bike.

3. Wait, I can't use it for a jaunt around the park?

Well, maybe around Central Park, or along the West Side highway, but remember, after 30 minutes (or 45) you start paying surcharges.  Really, and truly, Citi Bikes are to help you get around, especially where there are holes in the transit system.  So, for example, getting from Gramercy Park to the WNYC studios at Charlton and Varick is a pain in the tuchus by subway.  (You'd have to take the 6 to the L to the C, yuck.) 

On a bike, much easier.   You could use to go to Central Park, then dock it, then take it elsewhere.  But keep it under that 30 minute/45 minute ceiling, or you will pay.

4. Thirty minutes, where can I go in 30 minutes?  

As for a 30 minute ride, okay, you're going to know this pretty soon, right?  My educated guess is that most slow riders can get around most of the places in Manhattan below 59th street in under 30 minutes (Google will also calculate biking time for you.) Because you won't be stuck in traffic, particularly if you stick to bike lanes, you'll find this time much more predictable than driving and maybe even the subway.  But, hey, how do you ever know how long it takes you to get around town?  You ask, you figure it out.  And then, since you're a New Yorker, you'll be telling everyone else tomorrow.  Loudly. (Note: you can always right part way to your destination, return the bike, then check out a new one.)

5. What if I get to a docking station and it's full?

If you get to a docking station and it's full, Citi Bike tells you to push a button on the docking station and it will give you a 15 minute grace period plus tell you nearby docking stations with free spaces.    The Citi Bike app also can tell you where free docking stations are.  What if you drive somewhere and there are no spots?  What if you take the subway and its delayed?  Give yourself time.

6. Can I try it for a day and test it?

Yes, but not until June 3.  Only annual members get to use it in the first week.

7. Can I take it for a day with my kids? Is there only one size?

Children under 16 aren't allowed to join.  And yes, there's only one size, but you can move the seat up and down.  As for taking it for the day, you do remember what we said about using it for short hops, yes?

8. I'm way too scared to try this.

Well, you have to go with your own comfort level.  But know that many, many cities in the world have this -- Mexico City, London, Paris, Ghanzhou.  Many of which also have insane traffic and mayhem.

9. You don't really expect me to ride on in a suit, do you? I mean, arrive all sweaty at a business meeting?

Honestly, we can't help you with your personal hygiene.  In some other cities, business people do ride, because, hey, turns out biking can be faster than walking or taking a cab or the subway.  If you ride at a safe speed and stop at lights (AND YOU SHOULD!) you may find yourself getting less sweaty than you think.  You can't ride that fast in these hulks.  Also, you have chain protectors to keep your legs free of bike grease.

10. What if I need to carry things?

There are baskets.  You could fit a purse or a briefcase or a small shopping bag.  Not too much though.

11. And...what about night safety?

Citi bikes have lights that go on automatically when you pedal.  Whey EVERY bike doesn't have these is a mystery.

12. Ugh, I am NOT looking forward to all those new bicyclists and tourists who don't know the streets riding around on bikes.

Yeah, well, tourists can be annoying.  But look at it this way.  If more people take bikes for short trips, it just might be easier to hail a cab.

13.  Why isn't it in MY neighborhood?

Citi Bike was supposed to have 10,000 bikes by now, in neighborhoods from the Upper West and Upper East Sides on down, and in Brooklyn through Cobble Hill and Park Slope. But it took forever to put together the deal, and then there were those unnamed software problems, and then Sandy.  So, it's limited.  (6000 bikes below 59th street and in Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn and through Bed-Stuy). The DOT is being totally tight lipped about when it might come to other neighborhoods.  You might guess that the Bloomberg administration would be sprinting to add more bikes between now and December 31, 2013, so as not to leave this to the next mayor, but almost  all the candidates for mayor have said they're pretty psyched about bike share, so it may not be such a rush.  We'll see.



Comments [17]

Bicycle Bill from Brooklyn

I've been a bicycle commuter for 16 years. I started in Boston when I was in college, and I lived in San Francisco for awhile. The Netherlands is probably the best place I've ever cycled internationally: they have dedicated lanes, little mini-roads and paved trails between cities. It's a bike-friendly culture, and most people don't wear helmets.

But this is New York. Don't be an idiot. Use every precaution you know about, can find out about, and keep your eyes on the road. Helmet? Duh.

Follow the rules. Ride defensively. Use the bell! Do those things have a bell? I don't know. If so, use it! This should all sound familiar if you've ever had a driver's license. (Use the proper hand signals for turning.)

Never wear anything that might get caught up in the wheels. Bike stores sell little webbed nylon bands you velcro around pant legs: they're cheap, handy and usually have reflective material to boot.

First Avenue is chaos during the morning commute. Lots of business deliveries are happening (read kegs of beer, UPS guys, dollies everywhere) in addition to cab hailers, pedestrians stepping off the curb into your path, taxis and cars "hedging" into left hand turns, trying to part the people-sea of people walking uptown and downtown. What do you do? Go to the left of them, to the right of them, or just wait for the obstruction to clear? ON TOP of all that, you've got an aggressive element in the cycling community going really fast who treat all these obstacles like the 1st person video games they play at home when they're not out risking their lives. (You know you're out there!) Food delivery dudes going the wrong way because it's faster (Brian Lehrer, ticket restaurant owners or It's hot out, you're thirsty, and you are just trying to get to work. My advice to you is to take it slow, bring water, and maybe there are some routes to avoid. You'll figure it out.

Jun. 01 2013 03:42 PM
Tim Shea from West Village

I am missing in all this the significant issue of collaboration and community input. This bike program has been IMPOSED on neighborhoods and commercial areas without any prior discussion. Traffic patterns were are altered and parking spaces eliminated.

There was a community uproar when the stations were installed in my neighborhood-the west village-and, as far as I know, that was that. No action or reasonable response by the city to our concerns has been issued.

The implementation process has been, in a word, stupid.

Jun. 01 2013 11:27 AM
Jerry from Jersey from North Jersey

Obamacare, bikeshare, a small voice speaking out against genetically modified food?!? -What are we becoming - Europeans?
No, really though - it is about time!!!
Way to go NYC.

WNYC...there is this thing called spell check on your computer...
"(Note: you can always right part way to your destination, return the bike, then check out a new one.)"
"Whey EVERY bike doesn't have these is a mystery."

Jun. 01 2013 08:41 AM
informed consumer from pedestrian

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE: learn and respect road rules, obey traffic lights, and stay off sidewalks!

"Cyclists have all the rights and are subject to all of the duties and regulations applicable to drivers of motor vehicles. Download a complete list of New York City bicycle rules"

May. 30 2013 04:39 PM

Having a helmet guarantees NOTHING! I wish people would stop with this crap.

I've been riding bikes since 1975. I've been downhill skiing since 1976....and rollerspeed-quad skating since 1978...I've been boating, sailing...I've NEVER needed a helmet. What YOU need is to be cautious, KNOW your equipment.... and know how to take a tumble. We live in a society that is so fuckin stupid and weak and the newer generation knows nothing about how to manage their own risks, their bodies nor to properly learn how to use their equipment! They are so unconscious and inconsiderate about others around them. Choose to get OFF the roller blades...Quads are much safer. That is the choice you make in your equipment you use. You didn't have the rollerskating accident numbers and injuries back in the day.....but since the rollerblade which is by physics...a more dangerous tool, you have more injuries in more places in the body. This is why I won't do blades..know your equipment...know the rules..understand a bit of physics of your body and always watch what the other guy is doing. It's a bicycle for Christ's sake!

May. 30 2013 01:00 PM
carolina from Brooklyn

Re helmets: NEVER NEVER go without a helmet, even in what appears a safe place to ride. Riding through car-free Prospect Park on lovely June day, passing a happy group of 7th graders on class outing, suddenly a skateboard emerges from the group right in my path. I hit the ground hard. In addition to leg and other injuries, my helmet is demolished. Without helmet my head would have been demolished.

May. 30 2013 12:27 PM
John Hackett from downtown

Love Bike Share but wonder why a single use option is unavailable.
I guarantee that some people waiting for a bus or furiously trying to hail a cab would want to give Bike Share a try -- if they could do so for one 30-minute ride priced at the cost, say, of a bus ride.
Having such an option would be a great way of introducing people to the possibilities of Bike Share.
This all seems so obvious that it baffles me that it's not available.

May. 30 2013 12:10 PM
Nick from Here

What they should do is have you register your destination at the time you remove the Citi bike. If there is a spot there it will be reserved for your bike...if not you have to pick another spot near by..all before removing the bike for your ride over there. That's the way plances work..a plane does not take off until there is a spot at the destination airport to land.

May. 28 2013 10:08 AM
dd from east village

this fails to note the use of unlimited rides under 30-40 mins so while coney islamd is a bad idea due to now stations there and along the way: a central park stint seems fine! want a longer ride: just change out your bike!

May. 28 2013 01:11 AM

Hey Dan -- they set up a kiosk in Union Square to give out keys to anyone who registered before May 17 and hasn't received a key in the mail. Not sure if they are still there, but they were there much of today so you did have an option besides spending 3 hours going to Sunset Park.

May. 27 2013 04:45 PM
Dan from Hartsdale, NY

I registered for annual membership on the first day it was offered, April 15, 2013, but apparently the "keys" were not mailed out sufficiently in advance of the Memorial Day (Monday)opening day to get to everyone (me included) by Saturday's mail. I had been (since last July, 2012, actually)really excited about riding on opening day. My only option is to travel to Bike Share's offices in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, today, to pick up my key personally. I haven't decided whether its worth the 3 hours out of my day, today, to travel to Brooklyn just to get the thing that is (supposedly) already "in the mail" to me, just to ride on opening day. I'm pissed.

May. 26 2013 10:07 AM

Hey Downtown,

The fee schedule is clear, though it's different for annual members who get unlimited 45 minute rides, and "casual" daily or weekly users, who only get 30 minutes. Both groups pay their own overtime rates, which start reasonably for the first little bit of overage, and get steeper and prohibitive as the bike are kept out bike too long. The important point to remember is it's not a bike rental. You wouldn't keep a citibike for hours on end, anymore than you'd hold a cab all afternoon just for the joy of it.

One other tidbit - as long as you re-dock you bike within the allotted time, you can take it right back out again for another joy ride.


May. 25 2013 05:00 PM
Martha from Manhattan

Does this mean NY Yorkers will have enough room to walk on the sidewalk again?


May. 25 2013 01:11 PM

Downtown - here's what Citi Bike has to say on the issue:

May. 24 2013 04:02 PM

I just wish someone would put a simple and consistent fee schedule up. The website and every article I've read, including yours, has a different story. eg is it 30 free or 45 or 29?

What is the TOTAL after an hour? What is the total after a half hour? Is there a holding fee - sometimes I see this is "yes" and other times "no" - so which is it?

May. 24 2013 03:39 PM

Rebecca, as of now, no. Though, interestingly, Anthony Weiner says in his policy book he'd like to allow employers to offer incentives to encourage bike riding.

More on that: here:

May. 24 2013 02:48 PM
rebecca from 14th street

can you use commuter benefit cards to pay for the bikes if you are using to commute??

May. 24 2013 02:38 PM

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