Citi Bike Is Not Just For Youngsters
By: Joel Epstein
According to the New York Post, back in September 2021, a youngster named Eric Finkelstein, age 33, of Manhattan was the first person to visit every Citi Bike station in New York City and Jersey City — all 1,577 of them.
Congratulations Eric! I am happy to join you in the club.
As of Sunday, at 62, I probably became the oldest New Yorker to visit every Citi Bike dock in New York. According to my City Explorer profile on the Citi Bike app, I have visited 1,951 stations, including all of the active stations in New York, Hoboken and Jersey City.
In addition to oldest (a word hated by my girlfriend), perhaps another word that best describes me is dedicated. Others have used less flattering terms to describe me.
Though I have been riding Citi Bike for years, it is only in the past four months or so that I realized I could and wanted to take on the goal of biking every station. The mild winter helped and before long I found myself able to tick off whole formerly unexplored neighborhoods on some of those warm January, February and March days.
For those who care, my stats overall include 3,343 rides for 3,475 miles of biking. Had I ridden cross county, the 620 hours and miles I spent riding Citi Bike would have taken me from New York to Los Angeles and on to San Francisco. Which kinda makes sense as I live in New York but consider LA where I lived for 17 years my second home; and I was born in San Francisco.
A resident of West Harlem, I have long ridden throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and western Queens. The program’s expansion to the Bronx, Washington Heights, eastern Queens and eastern and southern Brooklyn, has been a boon to my exploring the City and neighborhoods I had only had a passing familiarity with including Ridgewood, Maspeth, Hunts Point and Crotona Park.
Surprises included the quality of some of the new protected bike lanes and related bike infrastructure in the Bronx.
Another well documented but still striking observation is the gentrification of Brooklyn and Queens along the L and M lines. I am out in Williamsburg and Greenpoint and brownstone Brooklyn often enough but what is happening in East Bushwick, Ridgewood, Glendale and even East New York, came as a surprise. I hear the criticism of some that Citi Bike helps gentrify the City but net, I am enthusiastic about its democratizing effect and the way in which it addresses the first, last mile problem in some of New York’s outer borough transit deserts. For instance, in Maspeth and East Bushwick and Mott Haven it was encouraging to find docks adjacent to small manufacturing sites relatively far from the nearest MTA bus or train or dollar van route. Citi Bike’s reduced fare program available to residents of NYCHA houses offers riders $5.44 monthly memberships with no annual renewal requirement. That’s one of the best deals in an increasingly expensive New York. While it was good to find Citibike docks in the industrial areas adjacent to the highways that crisscross the City, seeing the way highways including the Cross Bronx, the Bruckner, the BQE and the LIE strangle surrounding neighborhoods was as sobering as ever.
Citi Bike docks at all of the NYC ferry stops and on Governors and Randalls Island are other welcome benefits of the program. Thanks to Citi Bike, I started biking from West Harlem to Astoria over the Triborough Bridge. Before I took on this insane project I was a regular biker on the Highbridge, Macombs Dam, 59th Street, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges but now I realize I can get almost anywhere in the City by bike (and ferry).
We have made major strides in our active transportation infrastructure since then DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan began introducing trial protected bike lanes around the City about 16 years ago. Kudos to Sadik-Khan for bringing bike lanes and Citi Bike to New Yorkers, to Transportation Alternatives for advocating so effectively for a more bike-friendly and walkable City and to City residents and visitors for ditching their car or cab or Uber and embracing the carbon neutral program with such enthusiasm.
As for other thoughts on the program, the newest bikes with the easy to adjust seats are a major improvement over the prior generations. On the rare occasion when I ride an ebike, those new gray ones are stellar.
Regarding Citi Bike’s rebalancing of bikes at the docks, not so much. It is still often difficult to find a bike at one of the three stations nearest my apartment in Sugar Hill, while perpetually full docks at the southern end of Red Hook were to be expected on a warm Sunday but plain dumb on a rainy day midweek. It looks like adoption has been slow in recently launched Crown Heights. East New York, Kensington and Sunset Park but it was great to find so many docks in those areas. As Citi Bike has real time data on where the bikes and riders are, I hope rebalancing improves.
The only downside to my affinity for Citi Bike is it has cut into my transit ridership and time I spend walking, rather than biking, the City. Net though, the experience of biking every neighborhood served by Citi Bike has only enhanced my love for New York. Every day I go out of my building I feel like I live in a world that is the antithesis of intolerant Florida and Texas and that’s a great thing.
Yours in transit,
Joel Epstein is a New Yorker and an advocate for public transit, livable cities and public space.
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