The city bike sharing scheme in NYC is a great way to get around for both New Yorkers and visitors. Here's everything you need to know about Citi Bike in NYC from someone with experience.
City Bike Share Scheme in NYC
In the latest in my series about bike sharing schemes around the world, Jackie from Fish Out of Malbec shares her experiences in using the Citi Bike share scheme in NYC. If you are planning a trip to NYC soon, consider seeing the city on two wheels – it looks a great way to get around!
Citi Biking around NYC
Guest Post by Jackie of Fish Out of Malbec
In today's sharing economy, it's not uncommon to belong to a rideshare program, including a bicycle share program. In NYC we have ZipCar, Car2Go, Lyft, Uber, Juno, Gett, Via – all for cars. For many New Yorkers, when the weather isn't horrible, a bike share program called Citi Bike is a really economical way to get out and see the city. It is also a great way for tourists to see the best of what NYC has to offer.
As subway fares continue to rise (from $2.25, to $2.50, to $2.75 currently), and train delays grow, grabbing a Citi Bike is a great alternative to riding the train. It's especially a great choice if you're in Queens or Brooklyn, or in a less traffic-congested area of the city. I, for one, won't ride around in midtown Manhattan but ride daily in Queens and Brooklyn. The key is to ride where you are comfortable in your surroundings.
Why Citi Bike is a Great Way to Get Around
There are stations everywhere! There were a ton just added, too, in Queens. And the handy Citi Bike app shows you in real time how many bikes and docks are at each station on the map, so you can locate a bike nearby. This saves you from walking all the way to a station to find that there are no bikes left.
If you're visiting town and plan to do a lot of local sightseeing, but are tired of walking, it's a great way to get from A to B without trying to find a taxi that will take you for a short ride. It costs a minimum of $2.50 just to get in a yellow cab these days. Some taxi drivers can get really nasty if you don't want to go very far once you hail them. That's THEIR problem, but you can avoid this unpleasantness by using Citi Bike to go shorter distances.
I mentioned how cheap it is. A one-day (24 hour) pass is only $12, and allows you to take unlimited 30-minute rides while it's in effect. If you plan to stay a few days, it's a great idea to get a three-day pass at only $24, which allows unlimited half-hour rides in a 72-hour period.
NY locals get an even better deal, with $163 for a full year membership with unlimited 45-minute rides. If you live in the suburbs of NY, an annual membership can also be a good deal if you come into the city once a month or so.
Plus, you don't need cash to ride Citi Bike. So you can have peace of mind that you'll be able to ride if you don't have exact change, local currency, etc.
No Bike Lock? No Problem
One of the biggest pains of having a bicycle is figuring out where to leave it when you get to your final destination. Citi Bike is great because there are so many bike stations throughout the city, that you'll no doubt find one that's convenient to your destination. Lock up your bike after each ride at the docking station, and then it's no longer your problem. Docking is easy – simply push your bike up onto the docking mechanism and wait for the beep, clicking sound and green light. Then you're good to go!
The app has bike maps where you can plan your ride on streets with dedicated bike lanes. There are many streets with bike lanes – which you may not notice if you're in a taxi or just walking down the sidewalk. Busier streets in Manhattan have protected bike lanes, with a curb in between the car lanes and the bike lanes (8th avenue in midtown, for example).
It's always a great idea to wear a helmet. You can buy or rent one for cheap at a local bike shop. Or, you could even order one online before you get to NYC. NYC Citi Bike branded helmets are for sale on the website for less than $40, which make a great, quirky souvenir. If you have no helmet, you may wish to keep to rides that are in the parks and are not on the main city streets, or are in the outer boroughs or NJ waterfront.
Wear light-colored clothing if you plan to bike at or past dusk. But – not to worry – each bike is equipped with an automatic light system for visibility at night. Each bike comes with a bell, and different models have the bell in different places. Find it before you start to ride, as you'll probably use it at least once in your journey!
Track Your Stats & Feel the Burn
The app is great, too, because it tracks your user stats. You can see how far you've biked, for how long, and how many calories you've burned. It's kind of fun to see how active you can be during your trip. (Anyone else addicted to checking their FitBit while on vacation?) Cycling is great exercise and it might just put a dent in all of the pizza, bagels, cronuts, Black Tap milkshakes, knishes, hot dogs, dumplings, and other NY delicacies you've been enjoying!
See The City at Your Own Pace
There are lots of great bike trails and ways to see a myriad of landmarks in NYC by bike. For example, there are some beautiful waterfront bike trails where you can grab that perfect skyline photo. Be the envy of your Instagram followers by snapping a perfect sunset from Gantry State Park in Long Island City.
You've heard of bike tours for wineries – but you can take Citi Bike and tour NYC's many craft breweries at your own pace, too. You can find a sample itinerary here of the Queens Craft Brewery Tour with nearest Citi Bike stations marked.
Visit the places from your favorite films and TV shows – like Sweetleaf coffee in Williamsburg (featured in Younger), the Boathouse in Central Park (27 Dresses, etc.), Magnolia Bakery (Sex and The City), etc.
Gear Up to Ride
Citi Bikes each have a basket in front with a bungee strap to store some of your stuff, but it doesn't have sides. So, I would recommend having a backpack to hold your personal items while you're biking on a Citi Bike.
There's no cup holder or water bottle holder, so keep that in mind as you ride. You should try to keep a bottle on you if you plan to do some extensive riding, though.
What to Wear and What NOT to Wear
As I said, you should always wear a helmet. If you're going to wear a skirt, it's a good idea to wear tights, leggings or shorts underneath if you plan to bike. Try not to wear high heels (medium heeled boots are fine) or flip flops if you plan to bike for a decent distance. Gloves are essential if it's colder outside and a windbreaker is a great idea during the shoulder seasons. It will be windy and you WILL get chilly. Secure long scarves before setting out, so they don't get tangled in the bike spokes.
How to Sign Up & Use Citi Bike
Signing up is really easy – you just download the free app for your smartphone and click “Get a Pass” – select the pass that you want to purchase (day pass, 3-day pass, etc.) and follow the instructions. Note that you need a credit card and you need to be 16 years or older in order to rent a bike. There will be a security hold placed on your card of $101 as a precaution in case the bike is lost or stolen.
You can also purchase a pass in person from a Citi Bike kiosk.
Find out more about Jackie
I'm Jackie, a 30-something professional based in NYC with a thirst for travel, great food, great drinks and great times. I live for travel and started Fish Out of Malbec to share my favorite travel tips and recommendations with the world. My ultimate goal is to “travel tastefully”.