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Archive for September, 2014

Back on the Saddle: Day 36 and 37

So, this week I started riding full-time again. After a few weeks of taking the subway, I’m finding that the time difference between riding in and taking the subway really isn’t all that different. After all, with the bike you can just get going, while with the subway you have to walk to your stop, take the stairs, wait for your train, and put up with the “we are being held due to train traffic ahead” announcements.

Monday morning I decided to be a little different and check out the bike path on First. That, of course, meant riding crosstown for what seemed like forever.

ride by the UN

 

I did get a new piece of scenery–the UN Building that always reminds me of the monolith from 2001. Da, da, daaaaa….da da!!!!

the UN monolith--da--da--daaaa

Today’s Route: East on 36th, north on First, West on 47th
Best Thing About It: Beautiful, clear bike path once you get on First.
Worst Thing About It: Getting on First. Also, you feel like you’re going in a big circle (because you are). Also, it feels way too long, although station to station only took me about 14 minutes, on par with my usual rides.
Route Rating: 5 of 10

I sneaked out of the office early at 5 and found bikes on 47th and Park. I rode West on 47th (no bike lane = no fun) and made my way to the bike lane on Ninth.

This morning I took a different route–all the way up on Eighth to 50th, then East on 50th. Again, with no bike lane on 50th I found myself weaving in and out of cars, which is just trouble waiting to happen. My some miracle I found one open dock at 53rd and Madison.

up eighth

Today’s Route: North on 8th, East on 50th
Best Thing About It: Beautiful, clear bike path on Eighth until you get to Port Authority
Worst Thing About It: No bike lane on 50th makes for some scary moments
Route Rating: 6 of 10

That night I left work late and pretty much gave up on getting a bike near me. But I started to walk towards Grand Central and found a bunch of bikes near 43rd and Vanderbilt. The walk to the bike station from my office is about 10 minutes, and the ride was 12 minutes and 26 seconds, so it saved me about half the time, and so I’ll consider it half a ride in my “cost per ride” calculations.

Cost per ride: $95/54.5=$1.74 per ride
Stress: 6 of 10
Aggravation: 2 of 10

 

Riding for the Guided Dog Foundation

In all the months I’ve been riding Citi Bike, I’ve been neglecting my own bike, an old Trek 820 mountain bike which is the main bike I have home which I’ve used for years. I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a road bike for years, but with the roads being what they are in Queens and Long Island (lots of pot holes and gravel and trash) I figured it’s best to stick with my slow bike. There’s been more than one occasion that I’ve run into a huge pothole where I’ve been thankful I was riding my $349.95 mountain bike and not a $1400 road bike.

This weekend was the annual bike ride for the Guided Dog Foundation in Long Island. If you’ve never heard of them before, they’re an amazing organization based in Smithtown that trains seeing-eye dogs, companion dogs, and assistance dogs. They’re one of the oldest charities that do this, having been around since 1946. Amazingly, they provide the dogs to disabled individuals completely free of charge. All the costs of raising the dogs from puppies, training them, and caring for them are paid for by donations.

Each year they have a bike ride in Long Island. For years they’ve been running a bike ride to raise money–I’ve been riding for a few years and it’s always a great time. It’s not a big, hyped up event like the MS Bike Tour or the 5 Boro Bike Tour in the City. It’s really just a fun day that’s manned by volunteers from the Foundation, as well as the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association.

While they do have corporate donors, they also rely heavily on individual donations. For me, it’s one of the best charities to donate to. There seem to be so many charities these days where you just don’t know where the money is going. And a lot of charities have gotten so political that it’s hurting the image of charities all over. But with this charity, you can see first-hand where the money is going. The highlight of each year is where you get to go meet the puppies that are being trained to be future guide dogs.

future guide dog

We even got to take photos with the puppies for a small donation. The puppy I was holding just started to kiss me as soon as he was handed to me (okay, maybe he was trying to lick the cream cheese from the bagel I just ate off my face). Charles Schulz said it best when he said that happiness is a warm puppy.

It was a very dog-friendly day. In addition to bagels and bananas for the humans, they even had dog treats lying out for the dogs.

dog treats

That morning, I pumped the tires for my bike and got on it for the first time in months. Now the Trek 820 is a VERY heavy bike. But when I took it out of the car and got on it, I was amazed at how light it felt; it was almost like getting on a road bike; I was even wobbly for the first few seconds. I didn’t realize how acclimated I had gotten to Citi Bike’s heavy frame, thick tires, and gear ratio. They definitely designed the Citi Bike to, well, a city bike. The big blue monster is one that’s not meant to go fast, and which is designed to take a beating every day.

Each year they have a variety of rides to choose from. There’s a 10-mile escorted ride, a 22-mile one (which we took), and a 32-mile one. Then beyond that, there are unescorted 55 and 63 mile rides. They all started from Hidden Pond Park in Hauppauge.

The 22 mile ride took us through Ronkonkoma, Holbrook, and Holtsville.

bike ride through smithtown

The ride wasn’t as picturesque as in previous years (where we usually start at the Guided Dog Foundation’s headquarters in Smithtown and rode all the way up to the Long Island Sound. We ended up riding through a lot of residential areas, through the LIRR Ronkonkoma station and yards, and by the airport. But one nice thing about this ride is that it was really, really flat. No killer hills here.

The volunteers as usual did a great job at the half-way checkpoint, with Gatorade, water, cups of M&Ms and nuts, bananas, oranges, Oreos, and of course the biker’s best friend: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

IMG_4580

Coming back after 22 miles, we got to participate in some of the festivities. This year, in addition to the bike ride, they had an event where dogs could stroll through the park with their owners. I got a kick out of coming back and seeing that the dogs were as pooped as I was.

pooped pooches

They had a raffle where you could buy one raffle ticket for $5, 3 for $10. I was feeling a bit on the generous side, so I decided to donate $20 to get 6 tickets. To my amazement, three of the tickets won, including this adorable gift basket, complete with three stuffed Guided Dog Foundation dogs!

gift basket

Overall, it was yet another fantastic day (with beautiful weather to boot) at the Guide Dog Foundation. If you love dogs, love biking, love to help people in need, or love all three, it is worth the trip next year. Keep an eye on their site to learn when to register for next year’s. And if your annual giving, consider this really, really great cause.

Thanks to the Guide Dog Foundation and the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association for a great day 🙂

One last ride before getting the flu, and Yet another broken Citi Bike Station Story: Day 35

My last bike ride until today was a 13 minute bike ride on the morning of Friday 9/19.

I haven’t been posting since then because I’ve had the flu, so I stayed home from work a couple days and then decided as I was recovering to take it a little easy and not exert myself. Which is a bit unfortunate because the weather has been spectacular the last few weeks here in New York.

I finally felt up to biking this past Friday 9/26 after work, as it was another beautiful day. While as usual every bike station was empty by 4:30 PM, to my shock there was a station at 51st and Lex with tons of bikes. I hightailed it over there. Surely enough the docks were all filled.

could it be--full bike station?

I stuck my key in the first one I saw, and nothing happened. Tried the next one. And the next one. Nothing. I saw there were at least half a dozen other schleps like me bouncing from bike to bike like honeybees trying to pollinate a field of plastic flowers. I finally saw at the front of the bike station that there was no power to the station, even the screen was dead. So that added insult to injury, as now I had to walk even further back to Penn. Thanks again Citi Bike…

 

 

Riding Citi Bike at Night: Day 34

The morning commute was great. I had so much luck with the last ride all the way up Eighth that I took it all the way up again to 52nd and then a straight shot across in 5th. Not shockingly, the bike station on 5th was completely full, as was the one on 53rd and Madison. I had to go back to Old Reliable at 51st and Lex to find free docks.

As I’ve mentioned before, this route is great except for the area near Port Authority where the bus lane disappears. The lack of a bike lane on 52nd also makes for some nervous moments.

It was the evening ride that proved to be the interesting one. I had a late afternoon meeting that ran past 5:30, then 6:00, then 6:30. By the time it was over it was almost 7:00. By the time I was heading out of the office at 7:02 PM I asked Siri when the sunset was today and here was her response.

IMG_4455
That’s right, I had two minutes to get to Penn Station before sundown! But when I checked the Citi Bike app, I saw that there were 20…then 25 bikes at 47th and Park.

bikes availble
I hightailed it over there and saw the reason. There was a giant moving truck parked right in the middle of the docks. At first I thought the truck was just stealing a parking space, but when I moved to the other side I saw guys were moving the bikes out.

bike rebalancers by truck
Obviously they were balancing bites getting ready for tomorrow morning’s rush of people from Grand Central Station. The one question I kept asking myself why is why couldn’t they do this just one hour earlier to make the people who still needed to commute from Midtown a little happier?

In any case, my finding a bike after 6:00 PM was so rare and the weather was so gorgeous that despite it being past sundown I took a bike and started to ride. It wasn’t as harrowing as I thought it would be. There were still some light at dusk, plus the lights from the cars lit up the streets pretty well. I was wearing a black shirt, which isn’t a great idea, but my pants were light and semi-reflective. Also there was still a decent amount of bikers on the road, so whenever I could I stuck close to one of them. And of course, the bikes have some decent red and white flashing lights on them.

I zigzagged my way across 43rd and then down 5th. With no bike lane it was a little nerve-wracking, but there was a speedy biker in front of me I drifted off of for a while. I hung a right around 36th, rode down 7th, and finally sprinted toward Penn Station on 34th.

Unfortunately the bike speedometer crashed on me so I don’t have a record of the trip, but based on my station to station time of 8 minutes and 32 seconds to get from 47th and Park to 8th and 33rd!

record time!

This was clearly a record for me, and much, much faster than taking the E train at that hour. Granted, I was out of breath and my speed was mainly motivated by two things: me wanting to catch my train and not wanting to be biking in complete darkness. But it goes to show you how efficient Citi Biking can be when everything is working properly.

  • Cost per ride: $95/50=$1.90 per ride
  • Stress: 4 of 10
  • Aggravation: 2 of 10

Here are some safety tips for riding when the sun goes down:

  1. Wear reflective clothing and lights. The Citi Bike lights are good to a point, but something that shines back at cars is going to be much more effective. If it’s going to be very late a night, bring your own bike light.
  2. Stay on one side of the road. While it’s tempting to weave in and out of traffic during the day, avoid this at night. Saving a few minutes isn’t worth the risk of a car missing you in its blind spot.
  3. Stay in packs. Find other bikers and ride with them. There’s strength in numbers.
  4. Stay in well-lit areas. This is a no-brainer, of course, but you’ll want to make sure you stay out of dimly lit streets and on bike paths where available.
  5. Scope out stations in advance. Balancers aside, because there are fewer bikers moving bikes from station to station, if you see a station that’s completely full or completely empty, chances are it’ll remain that way until the next day, so plan accordingly

Happy night riding!

Using Citibike as a Tourist (USS Intrepid Trip)

After our exceptional experience as Capital Bikeshare tourists in Washington, DC, my wife and I decided that we wanted to be “Citi Bike tourists for a day” in our own City.

It was another absolutely gorgeous fall day today, so today seemed the perfect day to do that. It’d been on my bucket list for the longest time to visit the USS Intrepid. I’ve visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, but for some reason after 45 years of living in New York have never visited the Intrepid. Until today.

Now this was totally a spur-of-the-moment thing with no planning. I figured I’d use my annual pass to get a bike, while my wife would use a 24-hour pass (actually, I had taken advantage of a Groupon offer a few months ago that sold 24-hour passes 3 for $15).

We took the LIRR to Penn Station. Happily there were plenty of bikes outside of Penn, so we both grabbed a bike.

bike dock at penn

 

The Citi Bike system for 24-hour passes is pretty much the same as it was in Washington. You need to spend what seems like an eternity at the bike station answering question after questions.

In my case, I selected “Get a Bike” and then the 24-hour option. Only after that did it give me the opportunity to fill in the gift certificate number from my Groupon, which I did, zeroing out the $9.95 charge. I then had to read the scary language about how a $101 hold would be put on my credit card; read a screen reminding me to Yield to pedestrians, Stay off the sidewalk, Obey traffic lights, and Ride with traffic; and then presumably have me read 28 pages of terms and conditions. But finally, we had both bikes unlocked.

bike dock at Penn, ready to go

Now usually I’ll bike east, but this time I was biking west to the bike station at 11th and 46th. I biked up the bike path on Eighth for a while. On weekends there seemed to be more pedestrians than ever just straying into the green bike lane. Worse, there was a tour bus parked right in the bike lane at one point with a dozen tourists’ suitcases taking up the whole lane, forcing me to bike into the flow of traffic. I’m used to that, but my poor wife was having a hard time following me.

Having enough of people using the bike lane and not wanting to deal with Port Authority, I turned onto 39th to head West. I ran smack dab into a flea market, but they were prepared for bikers.

flea market in the city

I dismounted and we walked through the flea market of really, really crappy looking old stuff. Finally, we got to Tenth where there is no bike lane, so we carefully rode north to 45th, rode on 11th to 46th, and docked. I only saw four bikes there which made me nervous–yes, we were able to get from Penn to here, but would we end up having to walk all the way back to Penn?

bike dock near intrepid

The Intrepid was only a block away from the Citi Bike dock.

intrepid a block away

We walked the block to the museum, which I absolutely loved. I got a great deal by downloading a 20% off coupon, and since my wife is a student at Colombia she got in for free. I figured we’d saved money on a taxi and on the tickets, so I’d splurge and get the guided tour to the Concorde, which goes for $20 apiece.

The tour starts out on the USS Growler, a Grayback-class submarine with a payload of four nuclear cruise missiles.

growler submarine

It’s a self-guided tour where you actually go below the water line and view the submarine as it was when it was in service. Out of curiosity, I checked the Citi Bike app while we were on line, and our bikes were already taken.

bikes all gone!

It was amazing seeing things like the torpedo bays, instruments, and control rooms, but also seeing mundane things like where the crew slept and ate.

missile room in the growler

We then did the Concorde tour. I’ve seen the Concorde before in Washington, but the Intrepid is different in that only those who go on the guided tour can not only board the plane…

boarding the concorde

 

…but also actually sit in the seats.

concorde seats

We sat in Row 2, seats A and B.

seat assignment in concorde

Even though the seats were covered with plastic protectors, you could feel how wide and comfortable they were back in the day. The windows were smaller than normal airplane windows.

Our tour guide was excellent and told us stories of what it was like to be a Concorde passenger. For $8000 for a one-way ticket, you enjoyed amazing service and practically became part of a family. There was even a seat in the cockpit that passengers could sit in to talk to the crew about their lives and their families. You were served top notch food, of course. And you got to experience “the closest thing to being on a rocket” when the Concorde cleared the airspace over residential areas, tilted up, and blasted its afterburners to go supersonic.

We then got to go into the cockpit, which was also impressive.

concorde cockpit

We then walked through the Intrepid itself. They give you an amazing amount of access to the ship; you can have lunch at the Au Bon Pain on the same deck of the ship where the galley and mess halls were (both of which have been restored much to what they looked like).

galley in intrepid

As you walk up and down the decks, you can see where the crew slept (there’s a separate part of the museum where you can lie in an actual bunk).

bunks in the intrepid

 

You can also watch a movie about the Intrepid in the area where the elevator to lift planes from the Hanger to the Flight Deck was, see the gigantic chains and ropes that controlled the anchor, and visit the Bridge where Admirals controlled entire fleets–and had a great view to boot.

flight deck of intrepid on beautiful day

One of my favorite parts of the tour was this model constructed out of 250,000 Legos. They did a great job of making the museum interesting for kids–there are hands-on exhibits where kids can feel what it’s like to sit in a helicopter or to sleep on a bunk or to send Morse code.

There was also the relatively new pavilion that housed the Space Shuttle Enterprise (which was actually never a shuttle but a test vehicle that made the other shuttles possible)

enterprise space shuttle

We finished with quick tour of the flight deck to view different planes on display.

Overall, it was an excellent day. And what made it more excellent was that by the time we were done, I saw there were three bikes at the dock again. We hightailed it to the bike station, and there were in fact about five bikes there, with a woman returning a bike just as we got there. I’m pretty sure it was mostly the luck of the draw and timing–I’ll take it, but it could just as easily have been empty, in which case we would have had to walk 6 blocks down to 12th and 40th and failing that, probably walking all the way back to Penn. But today turned out to be a great day.

I wanted to bike down the beautiful bike path that goes up and down the West Side, but it was getting late. Perhaps for another day.

As for the deal, for me it was a great one as it just made my per-ride cost of my annual membership that much lower. But for my wife, had we paid full price for the 24 hour pass, we would actually have LOST money–a cab ride would have probably been about the same price and a bus ticket would have been cheaper. But with the Groupon deal, we pretty much broke even on the cost ($5 for a Citi Bike vs. two $2.50 fares).

We do have more Citi Bike passes to use, so I’ll be doing another “tourist for a day” in the coming weeks and will have a ride report on that. I’ll call today’s biking a success, though.

  • Cost per ride: $95/48=$1.98 per ride
  • Stress: 2 of 10
  • Aggravation: 2 of 10

 

Day 32 and what should have been Day 33

On the 11th, I got into work late, which seems to be the secret to having a fantastic Citi Bike experience. Plenty of bikes at 8th and 33rd, and a very smooth ride to 47th and Park.

That evening was overcast and I was feeling a little tired, so I decided to forego biking back to Penn.

Similarly, morning of the 12th was a gorgeous day, but I had a meeting to get to at work and so I had to take the subway. But all day I was looking forward to biking to Penn Station on one of the most perfect days of the year.

Problem is, everyone else in the City had the same idea. This is what the bike docks looked like within a half mile of my office.

citibike fail

That’s right–NOT ONE lousy bike available, because again, Citi Bike is set up to reward people who leave work early and punish those who work their butts off for a living. They did a decent job of rebalancing bikes early in the morning, but it looks like they’re just ignoring the problem of empty stations during the evening rush hour.

The sad thing is, there’d be so many solutions. How about waiving the fee for people who want to bike from a busy station like near Penn Station or Port Authority back to empty stations during those hours? Or providing someone who rides a bike from a busy station to an empty one a free subway ride? How about adding more docks to the stations? Or adding more stations in places where the stations empty? Or getting rebalancers to work in the evening as well as they do in the morning? Fail to address this, and the annual membership riders who are keeping this program just barely afloat will likely stop renewing in droves.

 

 

 

  • Cost per ride: $95/46=$2.07 per ride
  • Stress: 2 of 10
  • Aggravation: 10 of 10

 

Oh, and the Citi Bike App Sucks Too: Day 31

Ironically, my ride this morning was fantastic. It’s a beautiful 63 degree day in Manhattan, and I took the late train in (which seems to be the key to getting a bike). I got a bike right away and decided to grit my teeth and try what I’d consider the bike path I *wish* I could take every day going uptown–a straight shot up 8th and a straight shot east on 52nd to dock at 52nd and 5th.

As I’ve encountered in the past, going up Eight was no problem until I hit 39th. Then the wonderful bike lane completely disappears and swerves right into the middle lane of traffic to let taxis park next to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Today wasn’t too bad–there was just one police car and one taxi and both respected my space. But on bad days, this can get downright scary–you never know when a disgruntled car is going to plow you over from behind.

But the bike path picks up again after Port Authority and by biggest problem wasn’t dodging cars or pedestrians but just catching my breath, a problem I welcome because it means I’m riding fast and unfettered. Likewise, the ride on 52nd was unfettered as well until one portion where construction constricted the lane to barely more of a car width. But again at that hour drivers were pretty nice about letting me have my turn.

It wouldn’t be a Citi Bike Blog without a little kvetching, and so today I’ll turn my attention to the mobile app.

Now whoever is responsible for building the Citi Bike app for Alta or Citi or NY Bike Share or REQX or whoever needs to understand one thing: your app needs to do one thing and do it well–be able to pull up a station listing when I have 15 seconds at a red light and tell me RIGHT AWAY and ACCURATELY where the nearest station is that has open bike docks.

Rewind to be biking on 52nd and stopping at a light at Sixth. The one thing I want to know at this point was–does the bike dock on 52nd and 5th have open docks? So I open the app at the light. I wait, and wait, and wait (whoever designed their app must have designed their docks as well). Finally I see the map appear but it’s frozen. In desperation I kill the app and try again. But yes, it’s still stuck on the map. Worse, when I try tapping on anything the whole damned app freezes for minutes at a time. My guess is that each time I open the app some boneheaded developer decided that they need to refresh the map. How about having it so instead of defaulting to the map I can default to my list of stations? Oh, and how about getting rid of all the crap that’s slowing down the app and focusing on doing one thing right?? I don’t care about “Top Stops” (yes, I will be riding to Le Bernadin on my Citi Bike, New York Times) or “Riding Tips” or any of that crap if I can’t find one bloody station to park my bike near my office.

Sorry…okay, so after a while the menus are finally responsive. I select the option for “Stations”. I see the “station” at 49th and 5th show up, yes, the station that hasn’t been there for about 5 months now. Then I see that the dock at 52nd and 5th has 39 open docks! I can’t believe my eyes (by this time, of course, the light has turned green about 5 times). I bike to 52nd and 5th and, you guessed it, 39 full docks.

Since it’s on the way, I figure I’d try my luck at 53rd and Madison, even though the app reported it had zero docks open. And yes, there was one open dock which I happily grabbed, but the victory was hollow knowing that it was just dumb luck that I didn’t have to pedal halfway back to Penn to find an open dock.

Checking the app, ZERO docks open within a five minute walk of my office–nothing at 47th and Park, nothing at 51st and Lex, nothing at 53rd and Lex. Within a ten minute walk there’s the station at  44th and 5th, but that station is literally halfway back to Penn. Then north of me there’s 56th and Madison which again is a hike.

So once again, Citi Bike has done a good job of rebalancing bikes at the starting point, but what good does it do if there are no free docks at the ending points? And worse, word is that they’ll be adding more bike stations around the City. Which I’m sure is great politically, but heaven help us if instead of 200 people fighting for the 132 spots near my office there are 500 people fighting for it. And multiply that by every office in Midtown.

I have to say, I love Citi Biking, especially on a cool autumn day like today. But if they go much longer without getting their act together, I think Seth Rogen said it best for all of us.

Today’s Route: North on Eighth to 52nd, East on 52nd, then a detour to 53rd and Madison.
Best Thing About It: Perfect 63 degree weather again in September with a cool breeze.
Worst Thing About It: Typical clueless pedestrians in the bike path on Eighth but nothing horrific. A couple tight squeezes on 52nd. And of course, the Amazing Disappearing Bike Lane by Port Authority.
Route Rating: 8 of 10

biking up eighth

 

I left work at 6 o’clock and as I watched the app I could see bikes disappearing by the second. My goal was to get a bike at 51st and Lex. When I left the office the station had 15 bikes left, but by the time I talked from 50th and Madison to 51st and Lex there was just one bike left, and I got it.

Opposite of what I’d done in the morning, I decided to take a straight shot West on 53rd. 53rd is one of those rare westbound streets with a bike lane, but it was completely blocked for the first few avenues, leading to some tight squeezes with cars.  But once I got through that, the rest of the ride was smooth, including the ride down Ninth.

Overall a very nice day of Citi Biking.

  • Cost per ride: $95/45=$2.11 per ride
  • Stress: 2 of 10
  • Aggravation: 4 of 10

 

The Best Bike Speedometer on the iPhone: Day 30

If you noticed from the last post, I switched my bike route tracking/mapping app from Kinetic to a new one. It’s called GPSSpeed HD. According to the publisher, it’s a GPS tool with speedometer, altimeter, compass and GPS-tracker.

It costs $1.99, but it’s well worth it. I love mounting my iPhone on my bike at home and using this as sort of my “dashboard”. You can configure it to look like a traditional car speedometer:

traditional speedometer on ios

Or a digital speedometer:

speedometer on iphone

Or even a high-tech display that shows your forces in G’s.

force in g's

I had a little fun with this app on the Amtrak Acela on my recent trip to Washington DC, where to my surprise the train actually achieved speeds of up to 142 MPH.

IMG_3836

Not quite the same speed for my ride today, with a maximum speed of 16 MPH

average speed

On thing cool about app is that it displays your speed overlaid on top of your altitude. You can see here that the ride from Penn across down is relatively flat, but there’s an uphill climb as you head uptown on Madison. At first I thought the app was broken because it was reporting me at 312 feet when the maximum elevation of the entire City is only 265 feet above sea level (Bennett Park in Washington Heights). But I soon realized that I’d kept the app running and so the point where my MPH falls and my altitude rises is when I took the elevator up at work!

graph of speed and altitide

As for the ride itself, it wasn’t bad, until I got to the bike dock at 51st and Lexington. This one is always empty, but for the first time in a long time it was completely full, probably because more people are using the bikes due to the cooler weather.

I forgot that they had a “list” view in the Citi Bike app, so I kept pulling up the map, which never refreshed and was painfully slow, so I gave up on using it. Luckily I found ONE remaining slot at 53rd and Madison (which is usually completely full early), or I would have had to bike halfway back to Penn to find a bike to dock. The bike dock situation is getting worse and worse.

Today’s Route: East on 32nd to Madison, Up on Madison, East on 51st, then a detour to 53rd and Madison.
Best Thing About It: Perfect 66 degree weather again in September with a cool breeze. Pretty light traffic on 32nd. Pretty smooth sailing on the left-hand lane of Madison, away from the bus lane. 
Worst Thing About It: 
Not having a bike lane on 32nd nor Madison meant a couple tight squeezes when traffic starts converging.
Route Rating: 7 of 10

 

route on 9-9-14

 

  • Cost per ride: $95/43=$2.21 per ride
  • Stress: 4 of 10
  • Aggravation: 6 of 10

 

Rating the Citi Bike Routes from Penn to Midtown: Day 29

Originally, I was planning on mothballing this blog the day I broke even on my Citi Bike annual membership cost. After all, I know my posts started sounding redundant. One needs to wait for a bike in the morning at Penn, but rebalancers are pretty good so you generally don’t have to wait more than 5 minutes. One cannot get out of work after 5:30 in Midtown and expect to find a bike anywhere. Bike docks suck. The City’s attempt at creating bike lanes in midtown is a joke. And so on, and so forth.

So I’m shifting the emphasis of this blog to finding THE perfect bike route to commute to work (I’ll work on finding the best route to work and then once I find that I’ll turn my attention to the best route going back to Penn). I’ll try a different route each time and let you know which one I like the best.

9-8-14 route

Today’s Route: Up Eighth Avenue, East on 38th, up on Sixth, East on 40th, up on Madison, East on 50th, Up on Lexington, East on 50th
Best Thing About It: Perfect 66 degree weather in September. Pretty sweet ride up Eighth (on the bike path) and Madison (no bike path, but well-behaved traffic)
Worst Thing About It: 
No bike lane on 38th means weaving and tight squeezes. Bike markings on 40th is largely a joke with all the construction.
Route Rating: 5 of 10

I had tickets to the men’s finals of the US Open, so I left work a little early again at 3. Lots of bikes avaialble, ride to Penn was sweet down Ninth, and then the LIRR to Mets Willets Point was easy, almost as easy as Cilic’s defeat of Nishikori.

Cost per ride: $95/42=$2.26 per ride
Stress: 8 of 10
Aggravation: 3 of 10

Finally Saving Money on Citibike vs. the Subway: Day 28

On Thursday, I got to work at the normal time. Maddeningly, there were once again bikes in the front of the pack, none of which had their red lights on but I was suspicious because no one was taking them. I knew I had a choice–try to undock one or fight with the people at the other end of the dock to get one of the bikes the rebalancers were doling out. I chose wrong and tried to undock a bike. Yellow light…10 seconds…20 seconds…30 seconds…40 seconds…50 seconds…nothing. And by that time all the rebalancers were gone on the other end.

empty docks


But happily, I just had to wait about 2 minutes before another rebalancer came over the hill like the cavalry.

rebalancer

 

I was in front in line and the yahoo you see in the white shirt behind the rebalancer decided to come from behind to claim a bike while there were about 6 people on line in back of me. Through my body language I made it clear to him, “you ain’t getting a bike before me, punk”, but the folks in back of me were a little more subdued so the guy ended up getting the second bike. Again, I love how Citibike tends to bring out the worst in us New Yorkers.

My ride took me up Eighth and across 37th, where again the lack of a bike lane made travel a bit precarious. I also forgot there was a little thing called the MetLife Building that’s in the way between me and work, so I had to weave and and out of the little streets to find my way to 51st and Lex. The worst thing about the ride today were the pedestrians–they tend to travel in swarms, so even if the light is red they’ll force their way across an intersection and a little bike has no chance to get through, other than trying to weave through them like a salmon swimming upstream.

But I made it to 51st and Lex and to work relatively on time.

Something else momentous happened in this morning ride–my cost per ride finally dipped below the $2.50 mark. Which means that I finally have a positive ROI and am officially in the black now; my cost per ride is officially lower than what it would have cost me had I taken a subway for all of those rides.

It took 28 days spanning four months to get to this point, but what this means is that for every ride I take from now on that I otherwise would have taken the subway, I’m making money. Now granted I’m paying for it in other ways–the stress of City traffic, the aggravation of CitiBike.

I decided again to take off from the office early to have a chance at an afternoon Citibike. This time there were plenty of bikes available.

I rode west on 51st. The first few blocks were a joke, as construction is barely giving enough room for the width of a car, much less a bike next to the car (but still, there are bike lane symbols painted on the ground, so I suppose cars are expected to share the road single-file with bikes). As you can see from my Kinetic map, I spent a lot of time weaving and and out of cars, with me slamming into someone’s left-hand rear view mirror at one point.

image

But once I made it to Ninth, it was smooth sailing downtown. Well, mostly, there were actually so many bikes on the bike path that it got congested with bikes and at one point a clueless biker veered into my path without looking. But slight annoyances aside, it was a pretty good ride.

I docked at 5:53 and made it to the 5:56 train, where I’m writing this now. Overall, not a bad day, and the cash flow is officially positive now.

Cost per ride: $95/40=$2.38 per ride
Stress: 4 of 10
Aggravation: 4 of 10