Bike Share Speak: Backwards Seat = Broken

Monday, June 24, 2013 - 05:23 PM

A backwards Citi Bike seat (Alex Goldmark)

New York's bike share program is barely a month old, and users are already developing ways to communicate faulty equipment to each other -- and to the city.

Call it an emergent social norm in the New York bike share community. Nobody likes to check out a bike only to find a flat tire or wonky gears. So people have taken to turning the bike seats backwards as an easily identifiable warning to fellow riders something is amiss.

And it has the city's stamp of approval.

"It is something that's done in other cities," said NYC Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "It's part of the lore that's getting passed along. We think it's helpful when New Yorkers help us manage the system better...and if New Yorkers can help pinpoint the problem, so much the better."


Comments [3]

Inwood from NYC

This article misunderstands the reason. It's usually not about a broken bike (the bikes rarely have issues), it's about a broken dock as viewed from a distance. Understand that the following points first:

- the red light on a broken dock/bike is small and only faces out, usually towards the street
- most stations are approached perpendicularly or from behind; the red light is not visible
- Citibike is insanely popular and it is a very common situation to have a dock with only one or two bikes left in it
- Citibike is experiencing a higher-than-expected dock failure rate. Anecdotally it looks like between 5% and 10% of dock are broken at any given time!

Therefore, many members have become fed up with exiting a busy subway station, seeing a Citibike station across the street or down the block with, suspiciously, only one or two bikes in it, walking over to it with their hopes high, then finding those bikes red-lighted. By that point they have missed their bus or walked far out of their way. A backwards seat can be seen from a block away in any direction and lets riders know not to bother. That is the true motivation for why courteous riders turn seats backwards whenever they try to take a bike out and the dock fails or is already red-lit.

Nov. 15 2013 09:27 AM
John from City Hall

Not surprise, bikes will get damage and TAX payers foot this pork.

Jun. 26 2013 12:15 AM

Another emergent social norm could be pressing the wrench button as it is clearly suggested on the bike. But of course that would make it impossible to take out a bike with flat tire or wonky gears and notify citibike engineers so they could come over and fix it, so why would anyone want that.

Jun. 25 2013 02:37 PM

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