Ever since I spotted the shiny blue new ride share Citi Bikes all over Manhattan, I couldn’t wait to take one for a spin. Yesterday was the day – and in a word – riding through rush hour Manhattan traffic was like being in a real life video game: Dodging multiple obstacles, making sharp turns and stops to avoid injury to myself and others and avoiding being taken out by vehicles of many shapes and sizes. Here’s the good news: I won the game – but barely.
Some background. I love riding and have often ridden through Manhattan on weekends. When Mayor Bloomberg announced his bike share program, I was determined to incorporate into my daily commute from Montclair. So instead of catching the A train two stops uptown from 34th Street Penn Station to Columbus Circle – I would ride instead. (There are two bike check-in/check-out stations near my office and 4 at Penn Station).
For $99 a year, I am entitled to take as many 45 minute trips as I wish – without incurring any over time charges. I just push in my Citibike key to check out a bike, and lock it into a station after I’m done. I had been spending $5 round trip on my subway ride – so my $99 outlay will pay for itself after 20 rides.
It’s all pretty simple. I waited about 10 days for my pass key to arrive. There’s a mobile App that shows you bike availability based upon your location. Besides the yearly plan, there are credit card activated one and 7 day passes. Right now the program only goes as far north as Central Park South.
The check-out process was easy: insert key, wait for the light to turn green – and the bike’s front wheel is released from its locking mechanism. The bike is relatively light, has three gears and a comfortable seat. It also offers a big strap to lock in a purse or other small bag over the front handle bars.
I slapped on my helmet, made a seat height adjustment and was off – up 8th Ave in the designated bike lane – which I discovered offers you not one bit of protection.
Here is the short list of hazards I encountered and the video game it reminded me of.
1. Dodging pedestrians – lots of them – stepping in front of you. (Any Super Mario Brothers game)
2. Staying ahead of taxis/cars/trucks trying to cut you off at inter-sections (Pac Man)
3. Getting passed food vendors throwing boxed produce across the bike lane (Frogger)
When I finally ditched 8th Ave in the high 40s, things got a little better, but the street I chose to go down was being ripped apart and I was half walking/half riding on the sidewalk.
I got to my bike station near my office in about 15 minutes, more or less about the same time as my subway ride and walk. Besides feeling a just little sweaty, I felt totally alive and exhilarated! I loved every moment of it and couldn’t wait to ride again.