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
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