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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!

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