Citi Bike Share: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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In just 2 months with over 64,000 annual members, more than 3.4 million miles traveled, and a helmet rental program launching soon, New York City’s new Bike Share has fared better than most New Yorkers’ expectations. Nevertheless, New York would not be New York without some complaints:

“It takes me longer to dock it back in than if I had just walked to my destination”

“Half of the bikes at my closest station are futile, what good is it if the red light is always on?”

“I almost crashed after the gears changed suddenly, maintenance is a huge issue”

Notorious for their busy schedules and harboring intolerance for anything that wastes time or scuffs shoes, New Yorkers are a tough crowd to please. Even so, the overwhelming consensus was positive. Here is a summary of the good, the bad and the ugly, with a comparison against bike share programs across the globe.

The Good
  • Value
  • Over the course of three months, the bike share program attracted an average of 468 new annual members per day in July with its unbeatable $ 95/month membership. Compared to an $ 112 unlimited monthly MetroCard that does not guarantee reliable subway service, Citi Bikes give New Yorkers control over their schedule and their wallet.

  • Smooth Ride
  • While the bikes are heavy and difficult to maneuver at times, their versatility is appreciated by most members, as it is able to accommodate a 6’5” man to a petite 5” woman. With potholes as pervasive as tourists, the sturdiness of Citi Bikes offers an easy ride with convenient space in front for groceries, purses and yes, even children.

  • Strategic Stations
  • For those dependent on the L or crosstown buses, Citi Bike offers a better alternative to schlepping across Manhattan. The most popular stations include an even array from east to west including: West St/Chambers, East 17th St & Broadway, Pershing Square, 21 St & 6 Ave and Lafayette St & East 8th St.

  • Citi Bike App
  • For daily users, this mobile iPhone application enables a seamless commute. Its feature include a map of all stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn indicating the number of bikes and docks available. Users have the option to “favorite” the station for future reference, as well as share it through message, email or Twitter. If no docks are available, there is a “Stations Nearby” tab that lists the closest stations. The timer feature, however, is the most ingenious aspect of the app, as it mitigates the risk of incurring late fees for exceeding the time limit.

The Bad
  • Docking
  • The feeling of not being able to find a dock for a Citi Bike is equivalent to the frustration of hailing a cab at 5pm. An overwhelming issue for the Citi stations has been a lack of available docks during rush hours and malfunctions that impair returns. The ease of commuting to work becomes a frantic search for an open dock that is actually functional.

  • Maintenance
  • Reporting grievances about a Citi Bike’s broken seats or flat tires is not as easy as hassling a superintendent to fix the air conditioner. Faulty gears switching with the slightest bump is one of riders’ main deterrents; and to resolve an issue, riders must call the automated number and provide member information before being directed to a representative. With an average of 67,000 miles being ridden on Citi Bikes daily, regular maintenance will be a key determinant of the program’s success.

The Ugly
  • Free Fitness
  • Who needs SoulCycle when you have CitiCycle. Perhaps the most popular utility of the Citi Bike is its access to exercise, member or not. For those who cannot afford a typical spin class, the stationary Citi Bikes are the next best thing. While it is commendable that many are flocking to exercise and are being creative, riders looking for an available bike are not as excited about this invention.

  • Fools of the Road
  • Traffic tickets for cyclists have significantly increased in Citi Bike areas as reported by Gothamist. In the Manhattan’s 12 precincts stations, police have issued 484 tickets in the past month- a 7% increase from last year. The most common write-up’s are for running red lights, riding on the sidewalk, and riding in the wrong direction.

The New Yorker recently published “Interactive: A Month of Citi Bike” that illustrated on a time-lapse map how Citi Bike users are creating new ways to navigate the city.

Bike Sharing Programs Across the Globe

Velib-velo-Paris-s

Paris
Vélib, The French bike sharing program that began 6 years ago is one of the most established and widely popular.

  • + The busiest Vélib stations have a bike checked out every second.
  • + Vélib is the leader of bike sharing programs in Europe in terms of bikes per inhabitant with 1 bike per 97 inhabitants.

barclays-tfl-cycle-hire-1

London
Barclays Cycle Hire has been gaining traction since its launch in 2010, after it was modeled after Vélib.

  • + Since its inception in December 2010, there have been over 22,651,128 cycle hires in London.
  • + There is 1 bike per 984 inhabitants (a number still better than New York’s 1 bike per 8,336 inhabitants).

Bixi_in_Ottawa_2011_(1)

Montreal
Started in Montreal in May 2009 as Bixi Montreal, Bixi Bikes are taking over Canada with expansion to Toronto, Quebec City, and Waterloo.

  • + Since 2009, Montreal’s Bixi Bikes have expanded to over 5000 bicycles at 450 stations.
  • + There is 1 bike per 327 inhabitants (a number beating out NYC and London’s).

Will this be the future of the shared economy? Does your city have a bike share program? Share with us your opinion.

Top image by Buck Ennis. Bixi image by Brian Pirie, via Wikimedia Commons

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