Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
After nearly four days in operation, New York's bike share program has logged more than 20,000 rides and a few glitches.
"This morning I encountered an issue here at Carmine (street). Just couldn't pull it out," explained one enthusiastic rider who is already using Citi Bike to commute to work. "I think it was a key fob thing but customer service got back to me said there was an issue. Turned out there was a problem at the station here was having some difficulties, but not a big deal," he said with a big smile.
"The number one customer call we’re getting are people needing help activating their keys," said Seth Solomonow a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Transportation. "It’s hard to break out people trying to undock bikes with un-activated keys from those with other undocking concerns, but we have heard scattered questions, some of which appears to be intermittent or not affecting all users at a particular dock or station."
On Thursday, three WNYC staffers had trouble docking bikes. Once at a station on MacDougal Street in the West Village that had blue masking tape blocking some of the malfunctioning docking slots, but the station remained open. When we tested other docks at that station, they worked fine.
After attempting to check out bikes at more than a dozen docking stations in Manhattan over the past two days, I had problems at three of them. Twice, the station would not work at all with a given key fob, and once, certain bike docks would not release the bikes but others at the same station would.
A phone operator on the Citi Bike help line said many stations had problems yesterday and suggested waiting a few hours or trying a nearby station, usually less than three blocks away. "If someone has trouble docking or undocking, they should try different docks and wait a few moments before retrying," Solomonow echoed. "If that doesn’t work we recommend trying a different location as we continue to improve the system."
Sorting out these growing pains with a shrug is partly why New York City Bike Share, the company that runs Citi Bike, decided to open the program with one week of exclusive access to annual members who signed up online in advance and not to tourists and daily and weekly users. Those early annual members are more likely to be the most ardent supporters and loyal customers.