There is a lot to dislike about Citi Bike, New York City’s new bike-sharing system. First of all, there are five Citi logos plastered onto each Citi Bike. This means, once all 10,000 Citi Bikes are in circulation, there will be 50,000 new Citi logos clogging the streets of New York. Citi, which paid $41 million to fund the program, could very easily have put just one of its logos on each bike. Or, better yet, could've left the logos off of the bikes and just put a few of its logos on the docking stations. The result would've been a more tasteful, less intrusive, subtler advertising campaign.
Speaking of docking stations, the City of New York could certainly have done a better job of informing residents where the Citi Bike stations would be placed. There've been several complaints by New Yorkers who say the city didn’t let them know ahead of time about the placement of the docking stations, where the bikes can be rented. As a result, entrances to co-op buildings and places of businesses have been obstructed, parking spaces have disappeared, and blocks marked as historical landmarks now have large, ugly, gray structures taking up much of their beautiful scenery.
There is also the bike itself. Weighing in at a hefty forty-two-and-a-half pounds (more than double what a typical commuter bike weighs), a Citi Bike is not the most maneuverable of two-wheel vehicles. Nor is it the best looking. The bike has been called, at best, “dorky” by some cyclists who’ve taken one for a test ride. Meanwhile, other test riders, due to the build of the bicycles, have referred to the program as “Sissy Bike.”
However, despite its flaws, there is also a lot to like about Citi Bike. And much of what to like about it has to do with how the program could impact New Yorkers' lives at work.
Imagine this scenario: It’s mid-September, a beautiful seventy-one degrees with little humidity, and you and two colleagues have an afternoon meeting across town. You could a) Take a cab and risk being locked in crosstown traffic for nineteen minutes and thus arriving late, b) Take the crosstown 7, then transfer to the 1, missing out on the beautiful day while traveling underground, or c) All ride Citi Bikes to your meeting, getting there on time while enjoying the perfect New York late-summer day, not to mention getting in a little exercise, which might clear your heads before your meeting.
Or, imagine being able to have lunch at that new Midtown burger place you’ve been wanting to try, because it will now take you just ten minutes one way on a Citi Bike, whereas previously it would’ve taken you twenty via subway, meaning you’d never make it there and back with a full stomach of grass-fed beef in under an hour.
Or, say you’re working into the evening at your office in Midtown, you want to meet friends downtown, and you want to get there before that pretty awesome happy hour special ends at 7 p.m. Of course, there's pretty much zero chance of you making it if you take a cab due to rush-hour traffic. And the thought of going underground to take the subway after you’ve been indoors all day sounds nearly unbearable. And so what you do instead is take a Citi Bike, avoiding the packed subway platform and cars, and arrive in time for not one but two specials.
Or, say you just want to get in some outdoor exercise during your lunch break. Instead of staying in one place on the stationery bike for forty minutes while an A/C vent blows ice-cold air onto the top of your head, you ride a Citi Bike up and down Hudson River Park, the afternoon sun and (relatively) fresh air on your head and shoulders.
Other scenarios I can imagine arising where you might want to take a Citi Bike in lieu of other transportation options while at work include: a doctor's appointment (you could save time and money by traveling by bike instead of train and taxi), running an errand (reaching destinations like a grocery store or barber shop that might otherwise take too long to walk or train to), or looking for another job (who knows, mentioning that you Citi Biked over to an interview could get your meeting off to a more informal, casual, conversational tone, which might just improve your chances of getting the job).
All that said, Citi Bike isn't free, and if you don't have an annual membership, which costs $95, the cost for a single ride will set you back $9.95. There's also the question of time. Even with an annual membership, you can only use a Citi Bike for forty-five minutes at a time (it's sort of like having an unlimited monthly MetroCard; you can ride the subway as much as you want during 30 days, but you have to wait a certain number of minutes in between uses).
Which brings me to this scenario: I can imagine a time in the not-so-distant future where, along with MetroCard, Long Island Railroad, and MetroNorth discounts, New York City employers also offer their employees Citi Bike discounts. Or, better, yet, free memberships.
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Bike Share Gets Rolling Across City (WSJ)
Out for a First Spin: City’s Bike Share Program Begins (NYT)