NYC's new Citi Bike stations have been met with a mixed bag of reactions that span from excitement and joy to "let's use them as garbage cans", but a portion of the negative end of the spectrum may actually be due to misunderstanding. To be fair, the Citi Bike folks have tried to communicate with the public as best they can, but as with any brand new system, it's going to take a bit of time before people learn the ins and outs. If you're thinking about hopping on one of NYC's 6,000 blue bikes soon, check out our photo tutorial of quick tips to know before you ride to make the best of your first Citi Bike experience.
1. GET THE CITI BIKE APP
If you have a smartphone, you can make your Citi Bike experience a whole lot better by downloading the free Citi Bike app here. Once it’s on your phone, you’ll be able to use the app to locate the nearest Citi Bike stations and see how many bikes and docks are available at each one. Other available tools include a bike lane and route finder, a timer and a bike shop locator. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can also locate the stations nearest you using this online map.
2. HOW TO UNDOCK A BIKE
– If you’re an annual Citi Bike member ($95 per year), use the member key you received in the mail to unlock a Citi Bike (you’ll need to activate it first by logging in here and clicking “Activate Your Bike Key”). Once your key is activated, walk up to the bike you want and insert your key into the slot on the lefthand side of the dock. Wait until the light turns green and then lift and pull the bike by the seat out of the dock. The trick is to use a gentle lifting motion instead of trying to yank the bike out.
– If you aren’t a member but want to buy a daily of weekly pass ($9.95 for a 24-Hour Access Pass or $25 for a 7-Day Access Pass), walk up to a Citi Bike kiosk that has available bikes and hit “Get a Bike.” Then follow the onscreen instructions to get your 5-digit ride code printed out on your receipt. Then choose the bike you want and enter your 5-digit ride code (you’ll have five minutes to enter the code into the keypad to release a bike). Wait until the light turns green and then lift and pull the bike by the seat out of the dock. The trick is to use a gentle lifting motion instead of trying to yank the bike out.
3. CHECK BEFORE YOU RIDE
Before you ride off into the sun, it’s a good idea to check your Citi Bike out to make sure it’s in good shape. While the bikes are pretty easy to return if there’s something wrong with them, you can save yourself the headache of being in between stations when you discover something isn’t working properly by doing a quick check before you start riding.
Here’s a checklist of what to look out for:
Wheels: Lift up each wheel spin it slowly to make sure it spins freely and doesn’t rub against the brake pads or wobble.
Tires: Push each tire down hard against the ground to make sure it’s not flat. Also check for cuts, bulges or bubbles.
Brakes: Squeeze both brake levers to check that the brakes are functional.
If you find anything wrong with your bike, lock it back into a dock and press the wrench button to indicate that it needs servicing.
Photo via NYCgovparks
4. WEAR A HELMET
Even though you’re not required by law to wear a helmet when riding if you’re over the age of 13, we guarantee you’ll enjoy the Citi Bike program a lot more if you’re alive rather than dead, so we highly recommend that you wear one. If you don’t already have a helmet, the city has been handing them out for free so pick one up at one of their helmet giveaways and fittings.
5. PLAN YOUR ROUTE
While it might sound fun to ignore your map and just ride by the seat of your pants, you probably won’t be too happy if you stray too far away from a Citi Bike station and are unable to return your bike on time. Remember, daily and weekly access pass holders need to dock their bikes every 30 minutes and annual members need to dock every 45 minutes. If you don’t dock within the allotted time, you’ll be charged overage fees, so it’s in your best interest to plan our your trip in advance using the Citi Bike app or this online map so that you can dock your bike accordingly (you can always dock once and then take out another bike to continue riding).
Annual members: After the initial 45 minutes, it’s an additional $2.50 for the following half hour, $6.50 for the next half hour and $9 for every half hour after that.
Daily and weekly pass holders: After the initial 30 minutes, it’s an additional $4 for the second half hour, $9 for the third half hour, and $12 for every half hour after that
6. HOW TO SHIFT
To make the most of your journey, use your Citi Bike’s shifter to change speeds. The shifter will be located on your left handle bar and you can choose from three different speeds. If you need to give someone a heads up, don’t be shy about using your bell, which is located under the left handle bar. Better loud than sorry.
7. HOW TO USE THE BAG HOLDER
While it may look like an iPad from afar, that flat panel on the front of your Citi Bike is actually a convenient bag holder. In order to use it, place your bag in the slot between the front panels and your handlebars and secure it with the provided elastic band.
Once you’re ready to ride, keep in mind NYC’s four cardinal rules of bicycling and ways not to be a jerk on a bike:
Yield to pedestrians
Stay off the sidewalk
Obey traffic lights
Ride in the same direction as traffic
Not only will you make your trip more pleasant for yourself and those around you by following these rules, you’ll also save time, money and potentially your life. For more tips on biking best practices, read through NYC’s Bike Smart brochure here and check out Mario Batali showing you how not to ride like a jerk here.
9. DON’T LEAVE YOUR CITI BIKE UNATTENDED
This one’s a no-brainer but it’s worth mentioning. It’s going to be tempting to leave your Citi Bike outside of a bodega for just a second or two while you grab a Gatorade, but trust us, it ain’t worth it. If your Citi Bike is stolen, you’re liable for up to $1000, so unless you’re fine with paying a grand for your thirstquencher, we highly recommend that you never leave your bike unattended.
10. HOW TO RETURN A CITI BIKE
Find an empty dock at a Citi Bike station and push your bike in. Just like taking a bike out, it will take a bit of finesse to do this. Once your bike is docked, be sure to check for a yellow light and then a green light and tug on the bike once just to make sure it’s secure. You definitely want to verify that you’ve returned your bike properly since A. If it hasn’t and someone else comes along and steals it, you could be charged $1000 and B. You could continue to be charged overtime fees if the dock doesn’t register the return of your bike.
11. WHAT TO DO IF THERE ARE NO AVAILABLE DOCKS AT A STATION
If you followed our advice about planning out your trip in advance, you probably won’t run into this issue, but just in case you do get to a station with no available docks, what should you do? Luckily, Citi Bike anticipated this problem, so if you get to a station with no docks, they will add on an extra 15 minutes of free time to your trip so that you can bike to another station. All you have to do is go to the kiosk at the full station, dip your Citi Bike key (for annual members) or re-swipe your credit or debit card (24-hour or 7-day pass holders), and select “Request Time Credit.” You’ll then have 15 more minutes to look for another station.
12. HOW TO CALL FOR HELP
If your Citi Bike is stolen or if you have any other problems or issues, call 1-855-BIKE-311 (245-3311) for help. If you are involved in an accident with your Citi Bike, call 911.
Photos ©Yuka Yoneda unless otherwise noted.