New York City was severely late to adopt the bike-share trend which is the norm in most European cities. It was first proposed in 2008. The original launch in 2011 was delayed by Hurricane Sandy and other technical issues. It officially opened in 2013 with 332 stations and 6,000 bikes. Expansions in 2014, 2015, and 2016 have brought the system to Jersey City, New Jersey, and elsewhere. Although, sadly, the bike-share system bluntly ignores the Uptown folks. There are no bikes available above the 110th St, where I spent the most of my NYC life, prior to moving to Midtown Manhattan. In summary, the city was late to catch up with adopting a bike-friendly environment, but it still did a significant job in such a short time.
The year I moved to NYC, in 2009, the 30-day NYC Subway pass (aka MetroCard) was $81. Today it’s $121, which means a 50% increase. The annual subway expense of a NYC resident today is $1,452. An annual CitiBike membership is only $163 and it includes unlimited 45-min rides. Plus, there a ways to get discounts for Citi cardholders and other corporate memberships.
Back in 2012 when I first visited Paris, I had the chance to try their bike-share system. It really blew my mind. Such a simple, automated system which allows people cruise freely in the city without having to worry about their bikes getting stolen. To this day, I always look out for bike-share systems in each city I visit around the world, since I think biking is the best way to discover a place, especially if the timing is tight. I’ve done a lot of biking during my visits to 25 countries in one year, which was featured on ABC News, check it out below:
I have been using CitiBike for a month now and according to the CitiBike app, this is how much impact it has made in my personal life (and in our planet’s too!)
- Number of trips: 73
- Total usage time: 13 hours 27 minutes 34 seconds
- Distance traveled (estimated): 100.4 miles
- Calories burned: 4,315
- Gas saved (estimated): 4.2 gallons
- CO2 reduced (estimated): 81.5 lbs
Manhattan’s traffic is a one big gridlock. Based on my eight years of experience living here, I would say that the fastest way to get around is using a scooter/Vespa or a bike. The less-efficient options are respectively the Subway, public buses (thanks to Bus-Only lanes) and then taxis. Walking is a faster option in many cases.
The annual subway expense of a NYC resident today is $1,452.
Bike ownership (along with other things) is very costly in NYC. You invest in a bike, and then you most likely end up paying to store it in your building. (I had a $200 bike and to store it in my old building, I paid $180 / year for over four years.) And don’t forget the costs associated with wear and tear, and even other possible threats like thieves. CitiBike is the most convenient way of “owning” a bike without any frills.
10 Things I’ve Experienced After Becoming a CitiBike User
- Most pedestrians are oblivious to bike lanes. It’s extremely frustrating trying not to hurt someone who is blatantly walking in the middle of the bike line with headphones on, instead of staying on the sidewalk.
- Cars ignore the bikes most of the time and sometimes they hate-honk you, especially the cab drivers.
- Most bikers are males. Ladies, where are you?!
- Even if I skip the gym, biking kind of helps reduce the guilt.
- Things can get awkward when two people reach for the last bike at the docking station.
- I’ve only used the Subway once. And it was to go to Gowanus, Brooklyn, for a late night birthday party and I don’t miss MTA at all! Life above the ground is much better 🙂
- There are actually so many bikers in the city, which I didn’t pay a lot of attention before, and it seems the number is increasing almost on a daily basis.
- The rush-hour applies to the bike lanes as well.
- Most people (including myself) are using their bikes with no helmets on. (I’m thinking of getting one soon!)
- The feeling freedom and skipping all cars stuck in traffic: priceless!
The bottom line: NYC still has a long way to go in order to become more bike-friendly like Amsterdam or Copenhagen. But CitiBike has been a catalyst in making that change possible and turning the city into a more habitable environment.
I definitely recommend everyone to do the math and get a membership (and supply it with a pay-as-you-go MetroCard). You can start trying by getting a day pass. Finally, if I’ve convinced you to change your commute, let me know in the comments!
About the Author:
Saf Dogan is a New York-based travel hacker, blogger & YouTuber who’s been featured on ABC News for visiting 25 countries in one year on a budget, while keeping a full time digital marketing job back in NYC.