I’ve been tracking every single ride I take on Citi Bike: when, where, how long, and why. And thanks to my diligence, I now have a better sense of my reasons for using it.
Before it launched, I thought I’d just use it for quick zips across town. But riding in the city is fun, so I came up with some other justifications to ride, even when it didn’t make sense from a time perspective.
For instance, when the program first started, whenever you got on a Citi Bike, you’d always have someone looking at you inquisitively. I figured I was as good an ambassador as any, so I’d routinely engage such people in conversation. That hasn’t happened so much lately as Citi Bike has become really, really, ridiculously popular.
But several reasons have become entrenched, and there are a few positives germane to all of them. Riding a bike means I get to be outside. I get some exercise. I know about how long my trip will take, because I’m not at the whims of a “sick passenger” or traffic.
Situation 1: Getting there by subway is difficult
This often represents the biggest savings in time (and money, if I’m using a pay-per-ride MetroCard) – generally around 40%. It’s best for getting across Manhattan, to the East Village, or along the waterfront.
Here’s a good example. On this trip, I needed to get from Chelsea (22/9) to Murray Hill (38/3). I could have taken the C/E to the 7. But it would have taken me 10 extra minutes, a $2.50 fare, and I would have had to endure what might be the worst place in all of New York: the tunnel connecting the lines at 42nd Street.
Situation 2: To avoid transferring subway lines
Here I’m trying to get to Murray Hill from Washington Heights. I took the A to Times Square and, instead of the depressing tunnel and the 7 or S, emerged into the light and found a bike. (I had to walk a block over.)
Citi Bike is also great for getting there from my apartment in Park Slope. I used to switch to the 4/5/6 to get to Grand Central. Now, for the most part, I’ll take either train to 34th Street-Herald Square and bike over. No need to risk that things won’t be running after the transfer.
In this case, Citi Bike serves as an extension of the subway, and it’s usually marginally faster.
Situation 3: To take an earlier train
I have a general rule for riding the subway: if there’s a train coming that’s remotely useful, take it. Countdown clocks have changed that game a bit for me, but on the B Division (the lettered lines), it still holds true.
The B and the Q are usually pretty good at getting me where I want to go from home; of course, there are exceptions.
Here I was trying to get to East 4th Street and Lafayette in NoHo. Before Citi Bike, I would have just waited for a B, rather than take the Q to Manhattan and transfer to the local. But now I can get off at Canal Street and zip straight up.
Situation 4: It’s faster than walking
At right is an example from my visit to Brooklyn Heights. I saved about five minutes on this half-mile route. Not much on its face, but in terms of percentage, I’d do that all day.
Yes, I have taken this to its illogical conclusion. I once biked four blocks. Then the dock didn’t register my return, and my key stopped working. I had to get a new one. Karma?
Situation 5: I need to know exactly how long the trip will take
Sometimes a potential bike route will duplicate a subway route I could take, but I need to be there in 15 minutes. The subway could take as little as 8, but Citi Bike will get me there in 13 for sure. The sure bet is better than the gamble.
Situation 6: For fun
Because why not? Sometimes it’s just a lovely day for a ride.
Take my first Citi Bike ride ever, a 2.2-mile jaunt that was “officially” zero miles, since I started and ended at the same station.
— Keith Williams (@TheWeeklyNabe) May 30, 2013