Citi Bike Ride Reports

My Day as a Bike Delivery Guy: Day 7

You’ve probably noticed a trend that when I post about my morning commutes it’s usually tentatively positive, when I post about evening commutes it’s almost universally bad, and when I post about midday trips I end up having the time of my life.

Just a tip to Citi Bike and Alta. This is a little thing they teach you in business school called supply and demand. Specifically, in the morning there are a lot of folks who want to commute to work, but demand is a little lower during the summer because only chumps like me like walking into work covered in sweat. In midday most people are in the office so demand is pretty low. But in the evening, everyone wants a bike because they don’t care if they get home all sweaty, because they can just take a shower. So if I wanted to keep my customers happy and paying $95 again next year (or more), I’d make sure there are plenty of bikes near places like Park, Madison, and 5th for everyone, not just for the slackers who take off from work at 5:00 PM sharp.

In any case, this is going to be a happy post, since it’s about a morning and a midday trip.

The morning could have been a lot worse. I get to the bike station outside Penn and I see bikes getting taken as soon as the rebalancers who are there can load them. There’s a crowd of people waiting and it’s like watching a pack of dogs jockeying for position to see who’ll get the treat first. A dude stands next to me and gives a warning growl as he sees me approaching him: “a lot of us are waiting here for bikes”. I decide to take Caesar Millan’s advice and exude a calm, assertive energy. “Don’t worry, there are plenty of bikes to go around”.


Granted, that turned out not to be true, I ended up getting the last one before the rebalancer rode away.

I decided to try something new and made a straight shot down to 30th, and crossed over to Madison that way. So far this was the most pleasant cross-town experience I’ve had yet; the bike lane on 30th is pretty clearly marked, so aside from the occasional opening door it’s not a bad ride.

smooth ride to work

I hung a louie to get onto Madison, and that’s where the fun began. There’s construction and parts of the road where you’re squeezing between cars, trucks, and buses.


But once I make it past 40th or so it’s a remarkably smooth ride, aside from breathing in bus fumes and one parked car who decided to shift into reverse as I was riding past him.

When I get to my bike station, there’s even a big truck setting a pick and roll for me, so I can dock my bike in peace.

pick and roll

So overall, a pleasant ride this morning.

The cheapskates among you will appreciate this next series of rides. So, as part of Kmart’s“Shop Your Way” rewards program, they have a deal where if you sign up for their rewards program, link a credit card, and spend up to $10 on that credit card on a Burger King meal, that amount is credited back to you in points. If it sounds convoluted, it’s because it is…but as a cheapskate I will go out of my way to save money (ergo, the per-ride calculations of the Citi Bike).

The nearest Burger King is on 37th and 5th, 13 blocks away or at least a 20 minute walk. So I figure I’d try my hand at being a bicycle delivery man delivering lunch to…myself.

I decided to walk over the 52nd and 5th to pick up a bike. Not surprising at this time of the day, the docks were full so I had my pick.

full rack of citibikes

Surprisingly, I put my key in the first dock and nothing happened, no lights, no whirr, no click, nada. Then I tried another one. And other one. I went all the way to the end of the rack after trying about 8 bikes, and all of them remained locked, as if they were all out of power (dock recharging is one of many complaints of this program).

I walked back and kept trying until I finally found a bike that was free. Now the burning question in my head was…was this my bike or someone else’s bike who tried the dock, had nothing happen, and walked off. And worse, were all the bikes that I tried going to unlock and be free to whomever wanted to take them?

In any case, I wasn’t going to worry about it too much. I hopped on and had a rather pleasant and uneventful ride down 5th to 37th and found a station with open docks.

station on 5th and 37th

It only took two tries before I got my bike docks. By the way, coincidentally (or not) I got an email newsletter today from Citi Bike acknowledging that there’s a widespread problem with the docs. They tried to spin it in a positive way (“Citi Bike docks are pretty hardy, but they’ve now seen over 10 million trips, which is more trips in a shorter time period than any other bike share system in the U.S.”), and they included a video that instructs people how to gently dock their bikes.

I’m not sure if this is exactly the best advice–I haven’t found that the amount of force makes too much of a difference when docking a bike, although I guess they filmed this PSA to avoid people from slamming into the docks and breaking them (so much for the docks being “pretty hardy”). Personally I’ve found that the best technique for docking a Citi Bike is to gently push it in until you feel it “rise” a little, and then you’ll see the yellow light flash on. Hold it there in place until you see the light disappear.

I got my Whopper and fries and put it in the front basket. It seemed fairly secure.


Finally I rode back to 47th and Park by way of Madison where there were plenty of docks. Once again, a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Although I don’t know if riding a mile out of the way for a Whopper is really worth it, free or not. Next time I choose to take a mid-afternoon ride for food I’ll go for a better food option, like Shake Shack or ramen or something.

So in a Dickensian “best of times, worst of times”, I’d say this afternoon’s ride was just fine. It was nice having the option to bike instead of walk, and the path I took was quicker than a bus or subway. We’ll see about tonight. It’s 4:45 PM as I write this and I already see bikes disappearing from the map as I speak.

Cost per ride: 95/13.5=$7.04
Aggravation level: 8 of 10
Stress level: 2 of 10

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