What to Expect from a CitiBike


By Timothy Dillon

All photos by Lauren Hawker.

CitiBike Share launches May 27th! Seeing as most people have Memorial Day off, we here at BTR encourage all our readers, viewers, and listeners to get out there and grab a bike.

BTR was fortunate enough to attend a demo and check out a CitiBike so we could give New Yorkers the run down on what to expect from these bikes that have caused so much commotion. Our demo was lead by Director of Marketing for New York Bike Share, Dani Simons.

“First thing you want to know is that there are two ways to sign up for CitiBike. You can sign up for an annual membership and as an annual member you will get a key in the mail. With the key would come a packet which will include a $10 off coupon for helmets and there will be a copy of the Department of Transportations Bike Smart guide,” Simons explains. For this demo BTR was given one of the blue rectangular keys. To my dismay, they insisted that we return it at the end of the demo.

The process of obtaining a bike is fairly straight forward. For annual members, they need only walk up to a station, insert their key and wait for the green light to let them know the bike is ready to go. In what is perhaps the most important step, you are then to lift the bike into the air from the back, just a couple inches to disengage the lock. Once you do this just roll the bike back out and, voila, you have a CitiBike.

For those who do not have an annual membership, simply use one of the kiosks to purchase a 24-hour pass or a 7-day pass to retrieve a passcode that will allow you to “lease” a bike for a short stint. You will need to enter your code into the dock of the bike you choose.

One thing that is immediately apparent is the weight. These blue beauties weigh in at approximately 45lbs. Now while this could be cause for concern the bikes themselves are not actually meant for super long slogs across the city. Rides for annual members are capped at 45 minutes before you incur overtime fees. It’s 30 minutes for non-annual members. Next, while the bikes are heavy you actually get a smooth more stable ride, and the momentum you build up from riding is enough to be able to coast comfortably for quite some time.

Tim with his rented CitiBike.

With wide wheels and responsive breaks, a CitiBike is certainly built to withstand the tough terrain New York City streets have to offer. Simons explains that they are even able to handle cobblestone relatively smoothly. Road conditions aside, let’s consider inclines. These are heavy bikes and for those who are not seasoned cyclists, some may find difficulty with pushing all the weight up some of the cities slopes or over, say, the Williamsburg Bridge. The bikes do have three gears which are conveniently located on the right handle bar for easy shifting, but still, it will take a bit of effort to get one of these up a hill.

Re-docking a bike is also straight forward. Simply line up the titanium triangle lock that is located on the front of the bike and give it a good push into the station. Unlike undocking a bike, docking it requires a good push to make sure that the station will take the bike. Of course, look for the little green light for confirmation.

Overall, these bikes handle well. They are not meant for racing or exceptionally long and leisurely bike rides but they do serve the purpose of getting around the city on the fly. With the cost of an annual membership being less than a 30-day unlimited MetroCard, it is the most cost effective way of getting around.

“We designed [CitiBike] to make it easy. Just choose your bike in one of the many shades of blue,” Simons says jokingly, as the bikes are all the same color, “put in your key and ride.”

“We want New Yorkers to take [the bikes] out and really embrace them,” she continues. “We are hoping that people will come from other countries will come and enjoy this as part of their tourist experience here in New York.”

There are 330 stations spread across Manhattan and Brooklyn and 6,000 bikes ready to launch on Memorial Day. There were going to be 10,000 for the launch, however, their base of operations in the Navy Yard lead to set back in the aftermath of Sandy. But with any luck, a successful launch will lead to more bikes on the roads and in stations in no time.