After two straight days of Citi Biking to work, I decided to take the subway to the office in the morning. I have to admit, not dealing with killer buses, cabbies, and food trucks for one day was nice. As much as I can’t stand the masses of people pressing against each other on the E train, there’s something to be said about the whole “not getting killed” thing too.
I wasn’t a Citi Bike-less day, though. I did have a meeting downtown by 20th and Broadway at 5:00, so I figured I’d use the Citi Bike to go to that.
For me, this is one of the perfect applications for the Citi Bike. The subway is not fun to use to get downtown–it’s a 2-3 block walk to the B,D,F,M stop, and I’d need to transfer to get to the N and the R. And forget about getting a cab going downtown at that time of day. There have been times I’ve stood there like a scarecrow with my hand in the air for 40 minutes and cabs would just pass me by (someone explained to me something about a shift change where the cabs are so eager to leave that they wouldn’t pick up their own grandmother).
And so I walked to the Citi Bike station at 49th and 5th. To my surprise, there were lots of bikes available, I’m guessing they restocked them for the evening rush hour.
I decided to ride down 5th and connect to Broadway in the Flatiron district. The ride down Fifth started precariously. The right-most lane is the bus lane, so I found myself darting to avoid buses and pedaling as hard as I could to try to keep in front of the bus barreling behind me.
I soon noticed that most of the seasoned bikers were riding on the left-hand side. Made sense, although it flew in the face of the propaganda on my bike that said “Follow the rules of the road”. But I crossed over to the left side and it was pretty smooth sailing (and downhill) all the way down.
I got a sense of satisfaction passing by at least half a dozen people with their arms stuck out thinking they’d have a shot at getting a cab in the next two hours.
Of course, I had to deal with cars making left hand turns. And of course the pedestrians. Everywhere you go, pedestrians scattered like a big bowl of rainbow jimmies that fell off a baker’s table.
But then something amazing happened. I crossed 23rd Street into Flatiron/Chelsea. Suddenly, there was a beautiful green bike path with NO potholes. Part of the bike path was separated from cars by an island. The bikers on the path were courteous. Plenty of bike stations around. I thought I’d finally been run over by a bus and gone to biking heaven.
And when I got to the bike dock a block from my meeting, I was able to dock the bike successfully. Granted, I had to try on two broken docks first, but at least I was able to dock it without riding five blocks down.
Long story short, I made it from 49th and 5th to Broadway and 22nd in 12 minutes and 36 seconds. It was wonderful–and my first really, really successful Citi Bike experience.
My meeting went well, and then it was time to ride back to Penn Station to catch the train home. It was sunny when I went into the meeting, but the skies were dark and foreboding now. Obviously it was going to rain any minute.
I saw a bunch of people grabbing Citi Bikes, and I trotted over to grab one of the remaining ones. Then, I rode crosstown on 23rd (where there was a dedicated bike lane) and then uptown on 8th (where there was a dedicated bike lane).
Despite the usual annoyances (a limo double-parked in the bike lane on 23rd and if you look carefully at the photo you’ll see a guy who decided to pull his street cart all along the bike path on 8th). They were so few and far between that I didn’t mind as much as usual. And the trip to Penn took only 10 minutes and 1 second, quick enough to beat the rain that came pounding down just a few minutes later.
Bottom line, my experience in Chelsea and Flatiron were head and shoulders better than my experience has been in Midtown. I don’t know if it’s just because I went outside of rush hour, or if they just poured a lot more money into it, or if Citi Bike usage is just lower down there, or if I just lucked out. But I’d say this was my first experience of Citi Bike “the way it should be”.
Tomorrow, back into the belly of the beast called Midtown.
Per-cost-ride: 95/5 = $19
Stress Level: 3 of 10
Aggravation Level: 1 of 10