Five Early Thoughts on Citibike
As you may know, Streetfilms has done more videos about bike share than any other outlet on the planet. Here are some observations/thoughts I have after a few weeks of Citibike use. I'm not saying I am correct here or claiming to be a "Citibike expert" and regardless, I'm sure I'll hear it from you in the comments.
1. Citibike riders are more courteous. Remember how the press tried to frighten us about the maniacal, out-of-control, new riders on Citibikes? Well, we all knew that wasn't gonna happen, but if you compare the general population of cyclist behavior on the streets, I think Citibike riders are certainly more well behaved to this point. I have plenty of logical theories why, but this thought seems to jive with all the experiences of my friends.
2. Helmets not required. If your city is gonna have a successful bikeshare, having a helmet requirement is gonna make it more difficult to thrive. I've always advocated against mandatory helmet laws but I also encourage people they should be wearing one riding on the streets in places like NYC. I've always been a 98% wear-a-helmet-kind-of-person, but with Citibike I haven't yet.
This proves once again that the helmet issue is a dynamic, complicated one. It all depends on where you are riding, the speed, the bike amenities of your city, the build of the bike, the topography, the weather, your age and plenty others. Thus far, because of their upright and slow speeds (and if you stick to the safest routes) I've felt just fine Citibiking without a helmet. That said, I've also been surprised by the number of people toting a helmet and using one. Choice is a good thing.
3. Overall bike shop sales will probably be largely unaffected or higher, but what about folding bikes? Just an observation here. Not trying to alarm the industry, but in cities with bike share (if there is large coverage in the places you visit) the advantages of the folding bike are greatly diminished. Citibike is cheap. It doesn't need to be folded, carried, or stowed. No worries about maintenance or flat tires. Not sure if there are any folding bike sales figures out there to pour over. If anyone has more insight, please share.
4. Citibikes are more difficult to dock then other bike share systems I have used. To put it in perspective, I can't recall ever having one problem docking back in after using the very similar bikes of Capital Bikeshare and Nice Ride Minneapolis. But of all my Citibiking in NYC, only once did it check in on the first try. The others I've had to attempt it numerous times, try other docks and - in a few cases - gave up and used a nearby station. I am a strong guy, I should have no problem. I am hoping they are working on this.
5. The fun social aspect of Citibikes was overlooked by the media. How many times have I heard someone riding a Citibike say to another user, "Hey, nice bike!"? I've lost count. I've also noticed something I've termed "The Citibike Nod" which is the grin & nod of smugness and self-approval when riders pass each other. Sort of like being in a secret club when you were a kid.
By now, we've all seen tourists posing for pictures taken while sitting on a docked Citibike. I'm sure we aren't far from having a Citibike Meet-Up group. And even cab and truck drivers ask about the blue bicycles while stopped waiting for the light.
Did I say "waiting at the light"? Well that seems to happen way more often for me while riding the Citibike!