Citi Bike: The Most Efficient Way to Travel in NYC

A great way to navigate congested city streets

A great way to navigate congested city streets

Interacting with a city by bike is an optimal way to take in a landscape at eye level.  A two-wheeled velocity keeps pace with urban streets and yet you move slow enough to observe and absorb the city’s unceasing energy. 

I rent a bike when visiting new places to achieve this very sensation. I can cover ground but remain connected and in the thick of it all, windowless and independent.

That is my reason for becoming a Citi Bike member in New York City, but with over 50,000 annual members since the May 27 launch, there must be a lot of reasons.  Physically active, environmentally friendly, convenient, and fun are the most obvious motivations.

Since I got my key in the mail, my romantic notions of cruising through the city unbound and exhilarated have only been partially realized. The truth is that like most Citi Bike members, I’m at a beginner-intermediate level of city biking.  The skill, confidence and awareness required to drive our streets and avenues is just as important, if not more important, on a bike. Bikes lanes are preferable and safer, so seeking out Broadway, 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th avenues are ideal for cruising along on longer North-South trips.

Here are my other tips for using Citi Bike:

  • Start with the 24-hour pass before or after rush hours to get a feel for it. Then decide which membership is best for you – annual or using the 7-day or 24-hour options – based on how often you will ride.
  • Docks are below 59th street in Manhattan and in some neighborhoods in Brooklyn, with plans to expand in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.  Consider picking less congested neighborhoods for your initial rides to build your skill and confidence.
  • Map your route ahead of time so you can seek out bike lanes.
  • Keep an eye on the time.  Re-dock your bike to add more time.
  • Get an app that helps you accomplish the two bullets above. I like New York Bike, which shows route options and bike docks. 
  • Assume you are not visible to cars and trucks.
  • If you get into a sticky traffic situation that makes you uncomfortable, get off your bike and walk it on the sidewalk until a better option is available.
  • Wear a helmet. Yeah, I know, you only ride sometimes. Just get a helmet.

Last weekend, I took a hiking and rafting vacation in Boulder, Colorado. Based on the omnipresence of local hikers, climbers, kayakers, and bikers, it was evident that Boulder is one of the most outdoor active cities in the United States.  

I like to think that with an impressive enrollment in the largest bike share program in the country, New York City is already a healthier place to live.

Now that I think about it, maybe most of us enrolled just to be a part of a something big in one the greatest cities in the world.