With the Citi Bike share program kicking off this weekend, prepare for a big blue wave of bicycles — 6,000 of them at 330 stations — to take over NYC. And though it's sparked controversy (i.e. the potential overcrowding of bike lanes full of inexperienced riders), the program undoubtedly offers many benefits to the community: Pedal-power boosts fitness, delivers Type-A New Yorkers to their destinations without waiting, relieves motor-traffic congestion, and supports a cleaner environment. (Hell, yeah!) Besides, what feels better than the gentle breeze surrounding a ride over the Brooklyn Bridge on a warm summer night? (Relax, front and rear lights are activated whenever the bikes are in motion.)
But, are the blue bikes for you? If haven’t ridden since you were 12, what are the pros and cons of the bike share for first-time users? To help you decide, here are some frequently asked questions you weren't sure who to ask.
How does the bike share work? Citi Bike is a new public transportation option that allows you to check out sturdy, fully equipped bikes from docking stations for short trips using an annual membership key or a credit or debit card. It’s designed for quick trips, say, scooting across town at mid-day when traffic is jammed up, and rapid turnover. That’s why you see so many stations.
How much does it cost? An annual membership costs $95 plus tax. That works out to about 26 cents per day (!!!) for 24/7, 365-day access to the bikes. Think jetting home at 2 a.m. when no cabs are in sight. If you’re a member, you ride free for 45 minutes, which allows plenty of time to reach the next convenient station. Day and weekly passes cost $9.95 and $25, respectively, and give users the first 30 minutes free. To continue your trip, just return the bike to any station within the free period and check out another.
What happens after the free period? Keep an eye on your watch! Overtime fees accrue to your credit or debit card after the free period. For members, the overtime rate is $2.50 for the first 30 minutes, but it jumps to $9 for the next 20 minutes and for each additional half hour. The overtime rates for daily and weekly users are slightly higher. If you want to use a bike for extended rides, the better way is to rent a bike at a local shop.
Do I get charged if the station is full when I go to return the bike? If your free time is up, you get a 15-minute grace period to return the bike to the nearest station with an open dock. Use the “Nearby Stations” and “Request Time Credit” functions at the check-out kiosk.
Although the law doesn’t require adults to wear helmets in New York City, it’s strongly encouraged. With so many cute, lightweight helmet styles to choose from, carrying your newest fashion accessory is as easy as remembering your gym bag on the way out the door in the morning. For inspiration, check out the amazing selection at Adeline Adeline.
Are bicycle helmets provided?
Do I have to carry a heavy lock? No. The new system delivers the freedoms and benefits of personal bike ownership, but without the hassles of locking up, storing a bike inside, or maintenance. The stations are located in close proximity, so you can dock the bike and enjoy your destination without worries.
Will so many bikes and new riders make city streets less safe? While it’s true that any new system of transportation requires some getting used to — by cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers — studies in other cities with bike-share systems, including Minneapolis, Boston, and Washington, D.C., have shown that bike-share users are less likely to be involved in a crash than other cyclists. There’s also power in numbers: Cities where more people walk or bike tend to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
I’m worried about riding with traffic. If you’re new to bicycling in the city, take it slowly. Check the maps on the Citi Bike website or smartphone app to find bike share stations near a traffic-free area, such as Central Park (check car-free hours) or the Westside Greenway along the Hudson River. Once you’ve built up your confidence, plot your routes using the city’s growing network of bike lanes. If you know someone who’s already an experienced city cyclist, buddy up for the first few rides. Also look for tips on bicycling safety included in the packet mailed to annual bike-share members.
Remember, bike share is designed for convenient, efficient travel. Although nobody can predict the full effect of that big blue wave, one thing is certain: Once it lands, New Yorkers are likely to view two-wheeled transportation in a whole new light. Get full details at Citi Bike and ride on.
Photo: Via Citi Bike