lose weight with citi bike


My first ride in the spring 10.03.15

it’s funny but when I made my last regular post In the Fall I sort of figured that I’d be riding occasionally in the winter. But this is the first winter in a long time where there was hardly a say that either the wasn’t covered in snow and ice or the temperature wasn’t bone-chillingly frigid.

I think I rode Citi Bike once or twice in the winter, both times to try to save myself a little time in the walk down Broadway. I have to admit, there was something real nice about being able to walk to any Citi bike dock I wanted, pick up a bike, and drop it off at any dock. If only it were like that throughout the year.

The temperature today reached an absolutely balmy 52 degrees and sunny.





Most of the snow that fell over the weekend was already gone. I devided to skip out of work early at about 5:30–in the summer the bike docks would all be empty, but to my delight there were still some at the new dock at 48th, which is just two blocks from my office.



I didnt realize how out-of-shape I’d gotten over the winter, as I was huffing and puffing after the first few rounds of pedaling. Traffic wasn’t horrible, although there were monster potholes the size ofGerman  Shepherds to navigate around, and the occasional bike messenger who’d been used to having his own way biking down the wrong way on streets all winter and pissed that regular people are back on the roads.

I made the ride across 47th, down 9th, and back to 8th only to remember what I read in the latest Citi Bike newsletter about the station in front of the Post Office being shut down.





But again, because most Citi Bikers havent gotten back on the road yet, there were plenty of open docks for me to choose from.

So at least I got one near perfect ride in 2015. 

Unlike last year I won’t be posting a ride report for every ride this year, but I’ll be posting whenever I encounter something noteworthy in my Citi Bike adventures. It’s good to be back on the saddle.

All the Way Up Eighth, All the Way across 54th. Day 45 14.10.14

It rained all last night, so I figured I was going to take the subway. Little did I know that it’d be a beautiful day. Slightly warm and a little humid, but still a good biking day, considering the cold we’re going to get soon.

Unfortunately I left my helmet at home. But since it’s still legal for adults to bike without a helmet, I thought I’d be extra careful and try riding without one.

I picked up a bike at 31st and Eighth and biked up the way up Eighth. Instead of leading I decided to follow a pack of bikers so they could deal with the pedestrians in the bike path. I’m finding it’s a mixture of people who A) don’t know the rules, B) know the rules but get careless, and C) know the rules and decide to be a-holes. You can tell easily who is whom; group A will walk out of the way when you ring your bell and say “sorry”, group B will jump out of the way with a look of terror in their eyes, and group C will play a game of “chicken” with you. A pedestrian playing a game of chicken with a bike is as dangerous and foolhardy as a bike playing chicken with a car. One wonders when Darwin will catch up to the good folks in Group C.

I find that when I’m not wearing a helmet, people feel more free to yell things at you. In fairness to them, I was wrong in both instances. In one instance I rolled a little too far into the crosswalk at a red light which got me a “come on, dude”. And in another instance in order for me to get from 54th to 53rd, I had to gingerly go against traffic, which emitted a “wrong way” from a trucker. Mea culpa in both cases, but I wish these folks had the same chutzpah to say those things to the bikers who flaunt the rules on a daily basis (problem is, they usually look too menacing or scary that these folks will not utter a word).

I thought today’s ride would be a little safer, given that I was on bike paths the whole time. Problem is, the potholes and pedestrians and blind left turns on Eighth still pose a menace, and on 54th the bike path doesn’t start until you get to around Sixth, and then it’s a “shared bike lane”, which means double-parked cars, trucks backing up, and cars taking up every last inch, so a biker like I had to weave in and out and try to look for safe places on the sidewalk to make my way across.

Another really, really annoying part. My Citi Bike app told me there were 28 docks open at 53rd and Madison.

citi bike app wrong

When I got there, there were 2 docks open, and both had been locked shut. Thankfully, a guy came by about a minute later and told me he was picking up a bike (he was kind enough to notice I was in duress and unlocked a bike next to me instead of all the way on the other end). I’m guessing the app never updated. I would hope if the app developers ever update this app, they would put a “last updated” message on the “Favorites” page just so their app doesn’t end up being so misleading. Also, I noticed this app doesn’t use “Background App Refresh”, which would think would be pretty important for an app like this. Finally, I really wish the app would let you choose the “Favorites” page as your default home page rather than making you go to that useless, tiny map each time. It’s little things like this that really make me wonder if this app went through any kind of testing at all. So if you’re a Citi Bike app developer, take this free advice (from someone who’s been a digital product manager) to heart on how you can improve your app.

Today’s Route: North on 8th, East on 54th
Best Thing About It: Relatively safe compared to others given the bike lane on 54th
Worst Thing About It: Bike lane on 54th is “for suggestion only”. The usual annoyance with full bike docks during rush hour.
Route Rating: 5 of 10

Cost per ride: $95/65=$1.46 a ride
Stress: 5 of 10
Aggravation: 8 of 10

 

Riding Citi Bike to Central Park: Day 44 13.10.14

Since our experience riding Citi Bike as a tourist to the Intrepid was so good a few weeks ago, my wife and I figured we’d try it again. We had another mission in mind: bike to Central Park and meet my sister and her dog Clancy early in the morning (dogs are allowed to be off lead up to 9:00 AM).

We got up literally at the crack of dawn and took the LIRR in to the City right as the sun was rising.

unrise on the lirr

And happily there were lots of bikes for us to choose from at 33rd and Eighth.

33rd and 8th

But of course by now you know I can’t write a Citi Bike post without something going wrong. And yes, it turns out the station was completely without power, so I couldn’t enter my gift certificate number for my wife.  Yet another example of sloppy management by the Citi Bike people.

dead citi bike station

 

I walked over to my usual station at 31st and Eighthm and happily there were plenty of bikes there. I entered my gift certificate number, acquiesced to the scary question about the deposit being left on my car,acquiesced to the part where they tell you to accept a 200-page document, and finally got my bike code.

You guessed it. The code didn’t work. We tried on at least 5 different bikes. Then we went back to the station and were told…

citi bike mandatory 2 minute wait

So Citibike, you give me a broken code and THEN you tell me I have to wait before you can give me a new one? Thanks a bunch.

Well, we finally got a bike and started biking all the way up Eighth. And then I witnessed a sight I had never, ever seen before on a Citi Bike.

clear roads

 

That’s right, the roads were beautifully clear. But ironically, while there were no cabs in the bike lane to get doored by, or deliver trucks to swerve out of the way of, or pedestrians cluelessly loitering in, there had to be something to get in my way. And that something was PIGEONS. That’s right, every few blocks there were pigeons hanging around in the bike lane, as if they felt they were the understudies for the pedestrians. I kept ringing my bell, but like the pedestrians, sometimes they’d scamper away, but other times they’d fly into my face.

We finally made it to 59th when all of a sudden–the bike lane disappeared. It’s as if whoever painted the bike lanes suddenly said “Central Park South, you’re on your own, dude”. I’m sure there were bike markings somewhere, but heck, they were very easy to miss if there were.

bike to central park

But we finally made it up to Central Park South and 6th, and yes, there were actually empty docks.

bikes at central park

Now the perfect thing to do would have been to bike into the Park and meet my sister in the 70’s where she lives, but of course that was hampered by the fact that there are no docks north of 59th. Once again, it makes you wonder who thought of where to put these bike stations–it’s the nicest place to bike in the City, and you have bike docks only on one end of it.

So we got off the bikes and walked around on a beautiful fall day.

view from central park

And Clancy as always was thrilled to see us.

clancy!

We ended up having brunch at Sarabeth’s; my sister only knew of the one on the Upper East Side and not the one at Central Park South so we ended up taking a cab uptown. This is what I had, which pretty much wiped out any calorie loss from the bike ride.

potato waffles at sarabeth

 

But I think I made up for it by suggesting we walk the 30 blocks back down Madison Avenue. It was such a gorgeous day I didn’t mind. We even stopped at 70th at the La Duree to pick up these.

macarons at la duree

I’d wanted to pick up a bike where we left them and then bike West to the bike path on the West Side, but alas, there was the Hispanic Day Parade that blocked off everything between 44th and 70th, so there was no way we were getting to the West Side.

We picked up bikes at 56th and Madison and biked down 2nd and across 33rd. As I learned from my daily commute, the East Side is not a fun place to ride a bike in midtown, as the otherwise-pleasant East River Greenway completely disappears from 34th to 83rd.  Second wasn’t too horrible, and other than some tight squeezes on 33rd, that wasn’t as bad as usual either, although I can see tourists completely freaking out at a trail like this.

Since I was in tourist mode, I decided to snap this picture, even though in commuter mode I pass it every day without thinking.

empire state building

Happily, the Broadway Bites street food fair is back in town, and we stopped and treated ourselves to some takoyaki from Mimi and Coco NY.

takoyaki

Conveniently, there was a bike dock right there at the food stands, so we just docked the bikes and walked the block to Penn.

biking on east side

All in all, a pretty satisfying day, although had there been Citi Bike stations at 72nd and 92nd, it would have been a perfect Citi Bike tourist day. They’ve got a lot to work on as far as getting more stations and safer paths before they can start making money from bikers in midtown and uptown.

Cost per ride: $95/64=$1.48 a ride
Stress: 3 of 10
Aggravation: 5 of 10

No Rebalancers at Penn Station and Getting Into a Groove: Days 39-43 11.10.14

After my bad Citi Bike experience on Friday I was eager to get back on the saddle. So I got into the City and waited as usual by the Penn Station docks for bike rebalancers to come. It was past 9:30 and there was one lone bike at the dock, which did’t have a red light but of course wouldn’t unlock.

I waited and waited, way past the time it would have taken me to walk to work, but no rebalancers came. There’s a part of me that wonders how much of that was due to Citi Bike employee’s latest decision to unionize. I’m all for fair wages and working conditions, but let’s face it; if the union is pushing NYC Bike Share to make concessions that it can’t afford to make, the result is going to be things like this. One of the only bright spots of the Citi Bike program was how efficiently their bike rebalancers were able to replenish the Penn Station docks.

By 10:00, there was a long line of people behind me. I saw from the app that a few bikes had opened up at 7th and 31st, a block away. I walked over and saw 7 bikes, which was great. I tried to unlock a bike, it turned green, but it continued to be locked in the dock no matter how much I wriggled it to get it out. I then went to three other bikes and got a red and yellow light. Finally, a bike opened up for me. Again, no matter how good the workers is, as long as their technology sucks like this they’re going to lose even more riders.

For the ride up, I went back over to Eighth, went up on 40th, left on Madison, and then around to 47th and Park where there were supposedly three docks available, but one had the red “out of order” sign on it.

The rest of the week went better as far as getting a bike in the morning, but I was completely shut out of getting a bike every afternoon.

10/6/14 AM – Up on Eighth, Across on 40th, up on Madison, docked at 47th and Park (14 minutes, 0 seconds)

10/7/14 AM – Up on Eighth, Across on 40th, up on Sixth, across on 47th, docked at 47th and Park (15 minutes, 37 seconds)

10/8/14 AM – Up on Eighth, Across on 40th, up on Third, back to 47th and Park to dock (14 minutes, 54 seconds)

10/10/14 AM – Up on Eighth, Across on 40th, up on Madison, docked at 51st and Lex (15 minutes, 26 seconds).

The good news is that the rides are getting pretty routine. The bad news is that there still isn’t a ride nor a path that I felt completely safe the whole way. I think my spidey senses have just gotten used to being “always on”, so when trucks and cabs double-park in the bike lane, pedestrians wander into the bike lane, or vendors drag their food trucks through the bike lane, I just ring my bell and swerve around them, which is of course dangerous because it means swerving into the road which the cars are supposed to own or the sidewalk, which the pedestrians are supposed to own. They wonder why Citi Bike hasn’t taken off yet, and I can say with surety now that there are two reasons: the roads are still too dangerous because people don’t want to follow rules AND the management of bike inventory is still too disorganized so what should have been 8 bike rides turned out to be only 4.

On Friday night, I walked down and happened to notice a lone bike at 44th and 5th. I ended up starting my ride at 6:47 PM, or about a half hour after sunset. But I figured I’d take it nice and slow and I did make my way to Penn Station unscathed.

Cost per ride: $95/62=$1.53 a ride
Stress: 6 of 10
Aggravation: 7 of 10

 

My First Citi Bike Accident: Day 38 05.10.14

Friday morning’s commute took me on a pretty circuitous route: north on Eighth, east on 38th, north on Broadway, east on 40th, north on Madison, and then east to 47th and Park where I found parking. The route was circuitous because I wanted to see if there was a route where I could “keep moving” without getting stopped by traffic jams, red lights, or clueless pedestrians, food trucks, and double-parked cars.

Today’s Route: What it says above
Best Thing About It: Actually got a bike at Penn Station and a dock at 47th and Park without hassle, for once.
Worst Thing About It: Exhausting trying to find a decent path.
Route Rating: 3 of 10

It was the ride home that afternoon where I encountered a first–my first accident on Citi Bike. Now thank God it was just a fall where I got a little bit of a scraped knee but it could have been a lot worse. I guess it was just a matter of time.

The evening started out uneventful enough. As usual on a Friday afternoon, there were no bikes near my office, a failure of Citi Bike I’ve gotten used to. But I saw on the app there were bikes at 51st and 6th, so I walked over there. Surely enough, I saw a bunch of bikes there. Now as you guessed by now, the reason there were so many bikes late on a Friday isn’t because Citi Bike did what they should have and restocked the bikes. No, once again I quickly found that nothing happened when I stuck my key in the dock. No lights, no sounds, nothing. I tried about 10 different bikes and was surrounded by a half dozen other bikers also going from bike to bike. Miraculously, after a while I had a bike randomly unlock on me. This again is another failure of Citi Bike I’ve gotten used to.

I rode West on 6th, turned left on Broadway, and then made my way to Ninth. It was getting dark by this time. My heart jumped a beat when a Yellow Cab came literally within six inches of me. Now even though it’s dark, the red lights on the bike are bright, so there’s no way he didn’t see me. I started to think to myself–for all the money I’m saving on Citi Bike, all it would take is one bad accident, and whatever money I saved would be completely not worth it.

But I finally got into what I thought was a safe haven on the bike path on Ninth. As usual, there were food trucks, double-parked police cars, and clueless pedestrians blocking the bike path every step of the way, so I was cautious.

But around the intersection at 39th or 40th, I had a green light and was riding when an idiot pedestrian, without looking, walked into my path, completely ignoring me and the bright red DO NOT WALK sign in front of him. I rang my bell frantically and let out a yell before I swerved out of his way, only to lose control and wipe out. As usual when things like this happen, everything went into slow motion. I could feel the bike crumble under me, and I braced myself as my knees hit the ground, and then the heavy Citi Bike twisted on top of me. Thank God there were no cars or other people to crash into, or it could have been a lot worse.

I lay there on the ground for a few seconds to compose myself. My knees hurt bad but I didn’t see any blood through my pants, which was a good sign. I yelled at the pedestrian, “What are you doing in the bike lane??”. To his credit, he wasn’t a jerk back to me, but acknowledged he was wrong and apologized.

I got up. My knees were already stiff, but I didn’t feel anything broken so I told the guy I was okay and rode off. My knees were stiff, but I made my way back to Penn. On the train, my knees got worse but later when I checked them, I just saw a few scrapes and bruises, but thank God, nothing worse than that.

It’s really a crying shame that this City is so bike-unfriendly, even with all the supposed improvements they put in place. I think of the recent tragedy in Central Park. Of course, 99% of the media and public are blaming Jason Marshall the cyclist, and yes, all evidence points to him riding way too fast and not being in full control. But no one points to the pedestrians who were loitering in his bike path whom he swerved to avoid before hitting Jill Tarlov, who were just as complicit in that tragedy. This City will only be safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and cars IF if pedestrians respect the space given to bikers and cars, cars respect the space given to pedestrians and bikers, and bikers respect the space given to cars and pedestrians. Instead, it seems more and more that we have a City full of clueless and/or entitled brats who don’t show any consideration, respect, or decency to anyone else, and a City full of politicians and media eager to demonize bikers rather than educating the public and working together to come up with a solution.

Cost per ride: $95/56.5=$1.68 per ride
Stress: 10 of 10
Aggravation: 8 of 10

Back on the Saddle: Day 36 and 37 30.09.14

So, this week I started riding full-time again. After a few weeks of taking the subway, I’m finding that the time difference between riding in and taking the subway really isn’t all that different. After all, with the bike you can just get going, while with the subway you have to walk to your stop, take the stairs, wait for your train, and put up with the “we are being held due to train traffic ahead” announcements.

Monday morning I decided to be a little different and check out the bike path on First. That, of course, meant riding crosstown for what seemed like forever.

ride by the UN

 

I did get a new piece of scenery–the UN Building that always reminds me of the monolith from 2001. Da, da, daaaaa….da da!!!!

the UN monolith--da--da--daaaa

Today’s Route: East on 36th, north on First, West on 47th
Best Thing About It: Beautiful, clear bike path once you get on First.
Worst Thing About It: Getting on First. Also, you feel like you’re going in a big circle (because you are). Also, it feels way too long, although station to station only took me about 14 minutes, on par with my usual rides.
Route Rating: 5 of 10

I sneaked out of the office early at 5 and found bikes on 47th and Park. I rode West on 47th (no bike lane = no fun) and made my way to the bike lane on Ninth.

This morning I took a different route–all the way up on Eighth to 50th, then East on 50th. Again, with no bike lane on 50th I found myself weaving in and out of cars, which is just trouble waiting to happen. My some miracle I found one open dock at 53rd and Madison.

up eighth

Today’s Route: North on 8th, East on 50th
Best Thing About It: Beautiful, clear bike path on Eighth until you get to Port Authority
Worst Thing About It: No bike lane on 50th makes for some scary moments
Route Rating: 6 of 10

That night I left work late and pretty much gave up on getting a bike near me. But I started to walk towards Grand Central and found a bunch of bikes near 43rd and Vanderbilt. The walk to the bike station from my office is about 10 minutes, and the ride was 12 minutes and 26 seconds, so it saved me about half the time, and so I’ll consider it half a ride in my “cost per ride” calculations.

Cost per ride: $95/54.5=$1.74 per ride
Stress: 6 of 10
Aggravation: 2 of 10

 

Riding for the Guided Dog Foundation 29.09.14

In all the months I’ve been riding Citi Bike, I’ve been neglecting my own bike, an old Trek 820 mountain bike which is the main bike I have home which I’ve used for years. I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a road bike for years, but with the roads being what they are in Queens and Long Island (lots of pot holes and gravel and trash) I figured it’s best to stick with my slow bike. There’s been more than one occasion that I’ve run into a huge pothole where I’ve been thankful I was riding my $349.95 mountain bike and not a $1400 road bike.

This weekend was the annual bike ride for the Guided Dog Foundation in Long Island. If you’ve never heard of them before, they’re an amazing organization based in Smithtown that trains seeing-eye dogs, companion dogs, and assistance dogs. They’re one of the oldest charities that do this, having been around since 1946. Amazingly, they provide the dogs to disabled individuals completely free of charge. All the costs of raising the dogs from puppies, training them, and caring for them are paid for by donations.

Each year they have a bike ride in Long Island. For years they’ve been running a bike ride to raise money–I’ve been riding for a few years and it’s always a great time. It’s not a big, hyped up event like the MS Bike Tour or the 5 Boro Bike Tour in the City. It’s really just a fun day that’s manned by volunteers from the Foundation, as well as the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association.

While they do have corporate donors, they also rely heavily on individual donations. For me, it’s one of the best charities to donate to. There seem to be so many charities these days where you just don’t know where the money is going. And a lot of charities have gotten so political that it’s hurting the image of charities all over. But with this charity, you can see first-hand where the money is going. The highlight of each year is where you get to go meet the puppies that are being trained to be future guide dogs.

future guide dog

We even got to take photos with the puppies for a small donation. The puppy I was holding just started to kiss me as soon as he was handed to me (okay, maybe he was trying to lick the cream cheese from the bagel I just ate off my face). Charles Schulz said it best when he said that happiness is a warm puppy.

It was a very dog-friendly day. In addition to bagels and bananas for the humans, they even had dog treats lying out for the dogs.

dog treats

That morning, I pumped the tires for my bike and got on it for the first time in months. Now the Trek 820 is a VERY heavy bike. But when I took it out of the car and got on it, I was amazed at how light it felt; it was almost like getting on a road bike; I was even wobbly for the first few seconds. I didn’t realize how acclimated I had gotten to Citi Bike’s heavy frame, thick tires, and gear ratio. They definitely designed the Citi Bike to, well, a city bike. The big blue monster is one that’s not meant to go fast, and which is designed to take a beating every day.

Each year they have a variety of rides to choose from. There’s a 10-mile escorted ride, a 22-mile one (which we took), and a 32-mile one. Then beyond that, there are unescorted 55 and 63 mile rides. They all started from Hidden Pond Park in Hauppauge.

The 22 mile ride took us through Ronkonkoma, Holbrook, and Holtsville.

bike ride through smithtown

The ride wasn’t as picturesque as in previous years (where we usually start at the Guided Dog Foundation’s headquarters in Smithtown and rode all the way up to the Long Island Sound. We ended up riding through a lot of residential areas, through the LIRR Ronkonkoma station and yards, and by the airport. But one nice thing about this ride is that it was really, really flat. No killer hills here.

The volunteers as usual did a great job at the half-way checkpoint, with Gatorade, water, cups of M&Ms and nuts, bananas, oranges, Oreos, and of course the biker’s best friend: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

IMG_4580

Coming back after 22 miles, we got to participate in some of the festivities. This year, in addition to the bike ride, they had an event where dogs could stroll through the park with their owners. I got a kick out of coming back and seeing that the dogs were as pooped as I was.

pooped pooches

They had a raffle where you could buy one raffle ticket for $5, 3 for $10. I was feeling a bit on the generous side, so I decided to donate $20 to get 6 tickets. To my amazement, three of the tickets won, including this adorable gift basket, complete with three stuffed Guided Dog Foundation dogs!

gift basket

Overall, it was yet another fantastic day (with beautiful weather to boot) at the Guide Dog Foundation. If you love dogs, love biking, love to help people in need, or love all three, it is worth the trip next year. Keep an eye on their site to learn when to register for next year’s. And if your annual giving, consider this really, really great cause.

Thanks to the Guide Dog Foundation and the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association for a great day :)

One last ride before getting the flu, and Yet another broken Citi Bike Station Story: Day 35 19.09.14

My last bike ride until today was a 13 minute bike ride on the morning of Friday 9/19.

I haven’t been posting since then because I’ve had the flu, so I stayed home from work a couple days and then decided as I was recovering to take it a little easy and not exert myself. Which is a bit unfortunate because the weather has been spectacular the last few weeks here in New York.

I finally felt up to biking this past Friday 9/26 after work, as it was another beautiful day. While as usual every bike station was empty by 4:30 PM, to my shock there was a station at 51st and Lex with tons of bikes. I hightailed it over there. Surely enough the docks were all filled.

could it be--full bike station?

I stuck my key in the first one I saw, and nothing happened. Tried the next one. And the next one. Nothing. I saw there were at least half a dozen other schleps like me bouncing from bike to bike like honeybees trying to pollinate a field of plastic flowers. I finally saw at the front of the bike station that there was no power to the station, even the screen was dead. So that added insult to injury, as now I had to walk even further back to Penn. Thanks again Citi Bike…

 

 

Riding Citi Bike at Night: Day 34 15.09.14

The morning commute was great. I had so much luck with the last ride all the way up Eighth that I took it all the way up again to 52nd and then a straight shot across in 5th. Not shockingly, the bike station on 5th was completely full, as was the one on 53rd and Madison. I had to go back to Old Reliable at 51st and Lex to find free docks.

As I’ve mentioned before, this route is great except for the area near Port Authority where the bus lane disappears. The lack of a bike lane on 52nd also makes for some nervous moments.

It was the evening ride that proved to be the interesting one. I had a late afternoon meeting that ran past 5:30, then 6:00, then 6:30. By the time it was over it was almost 7:00. By the time I was heading out of the office at 7:02 PM I asked Siri when the sunset was today and here was her response.

IMG_4455
That’s right, I had two minutes to get to Penn Station before sundown! But when I checked the Citi Bike app, I saw that there were 20…then 25 bikes at 47th and Park.

bikes availble
I hightailed it over there and saw the reason. There was a giant moving truck parked right in the middle of the docks. At first I thought the truck was just stealing a parking space, but when I moved to the other side I saw guys were moving the bikes out.

bike rebalancers by truck
Obviously they were balancing bites getting ready for tomorrow morning’s rush of people from Grand Central Station. The one question I kept asking myself why is why couldn’t they do this just one hour earlier to make the people who still needed to commute from Midtown a little happier?

In any case, my finding a bike after 6:00 PM was so rare and the weather was so gorgeous that despite it being past sundown I took a bike and started to ride. It wasn’t as harrowing as I thought it would be. There were still some light at dusk, plus the lights from the cars lit up the streets pretty well. I was wearing a black shirt, which isn’t a great idea, but my pants were light and semi-reflective. Also there was still a decent amount of bikers on the road, so whenever I could I stuck close to one of them. And of course, the bikes have some decent red and white flashing lights on them.

I zigzagged my way across 43rd and then down 5th. With no bike lane it was a little nerve-wracking, but there was a speedy biker in front of me I drifted off of for a while. I hung a right around 36th, rode down 7th, and finally sprinted toward Penn Station on 34th.

Unfortunately the bike speedometer crashed on me so I don’t have a record of the trip, but based on my station to station time of 8 minutes and 32 seconds to get from 47th and Park to 8th and 33rd!

record time!

This was clearly a record for me, and much, much faster than taking the E train at that hour. Granted, I was out of breath and my speed was mainly motivated by two things: me wanting to catch my train and not wanting to be biking in complete darkness. But it goes to show you how efficient Citi Biking can be when everything is working properly.

  • Cost per ride: $95/50=$1.90 per ride
  • Stress: 4 of 10
  • Aggravation: 2 of 10

Here are some safety tips for riding when the sun goes down:

  1. Wear reflective clothing and lights. The Citi Bike lights are good to a point, but something that shines back at cars is going to be much more effective. If it’s going to be very late a night, bring your own bike light.
  2. Stay on one side of the road. While it’s tempting to weave in and out of traffic during the day, avoid this at night. Saving a few minutes isn’t worth the risk of a car missing you in its blind spot.
  3. Stay in packs. Find other bikers and ride with them. There’s strength in numbers.
  4. Stay in well-lit areas. This is a no-brainer, of course, but you’ll want to make sure you stay out of dimly lit streets and on bike paths where available.
  5. Scope out stations in advance. Balancers aside, because there are fewer bikers moving bikes from station to station, if you see a station that’s completely full or completely empty, chances are it’ll remain that way until the next day, so plan accordingly

Happy night riding!

Using Citibike as a Tourist (USS Intrepid Trip) 14.09.14

After our exceptional experience as Capital Bikeshare tourists in Washington, DC, my wife and I decided that we wanted to be “Citi Bike tourists for a day” in our own City.

It was another absolutely gorgeous fall day today, so today seemed the perfect day to do that. It’d been on my bucket list for the longest time to visit the USS Intrepid. I’ve visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, but for some reason after 45 years of living in New York have never visited the Intrepid. Until today.

Now this was totally a spur-of-the-moment thing with no planning. I figured I’d use my annual pass to get a bike, while my wife would use a 24-hour pass (actually, I had taken advantage of a Groupon offer a few months ago that sold 24-hour passes 3 for $15).

We took the LIRR to Penn Station. Happily there were plenty of bikes outside of Penn, so we both grabbed a bike.

bike dock at penn

 

The Citi Bike system for 24-hour passes is pretty much the same as it was in Washington. You need to spend what seems like an eternity at the bike station answering question after questions.

In my case, I selected “Get a Bike” and then the 24-hour option. Only after that did it give me the opportunity to fill in the gift certificate number from my Groupon, which I did, zeroing out the $9.95 charge. I then had to read the scary language about how a $101 hold would be put on my credit card; read a screen reminding me to Yield to pedestrians, Stay off the sidewalk, Obey traffic lights, and Ride with traffic; and then presumably have me read 28 pages of terms and conditions. But finally, we had both bikes unlocked.

bike dock at Penn, ready to go

Now usually I’ll bike east, but this time I was biking west to the bike station at 11th and 46th. I biked up the bike path on Eighth for a while. On weekends there seemed to be more pedestrians than ever just straying into the green bike lane. Worse, there was a tour bus parked right in the bike lane at one point with a dozen tourists’ suitcases taking up the whole lane, forcing me to bike into the flow of traffic. I’m used to that, but my poor wife was having a hard time following me.

Having enough of people using the bike lane and not wanting to deal with Port Authority, I turned onto 39th to head West. I ran smack dab into a flea market, but they were prepared for bikers.

flea market in the city

I dismounted and we walked through the flea market of really, really crappy looking old stuff. Finally, we got to Tenth where there is no bike lane, so we carefully rode north to 45th, rode on 11th to 46th, and docked. I only saw four bikes there which made me nervous–yes, we were able to get from Penn to here, but would we end up having to walk all the way back to Penn?

bike dock near intrepid

The Intrepid was only a block away from the Citi Bike dock.

intrepid a block away

We walked the block to the museum, which I absolutely loved. I got a great deal by downloading a 20% off coupon, and since my wife is a student at Colombia she got in for free. I figured we’d saved money on a taxi and on the tickets, so I’d splurge and get the guided tour to the Concorde, which goes for $20 apiece.

The tour starts out on the USS Growler, a Grayback-class submarine with a payload of four nuclear cruise missiles.

growler submarine

It’s a self-guided tour where you actually go below the water line and view the submarine as it was when it was in service. Out of curiosity, I checked the Citi Bike app while we were on line, and our bikes were already taken.

bikes all gone!

It was amazing seeing things like the torpedo bays, instruments, and control rooms, but also seeing mundane things like where the crew slept and ate.

missile room in the growler

We then did the Concorde tour. I’ve seen the Concorde before in Washington, but the Intrepid is different in that only those who go on the guided tour can not only board the plane…

boarding the concorde

 

…but also actually sit in the seats.

concorde seats

We sat in Row 2, seats A and B.

seat assignment in concorde

Even though the seats were covered with plastic protectors, you could feel how wide and comfortable they were back in the day. The windows were smaller than normal airplane windows.

Our tour guide was excellent and told us stories of what it was like to be a Concorde passenger. For $8000 for a one-way ticket, you enjoyed amazing service and practically became part of a family. There was even a seat in the cockpit that passengers could sit in to talk to the crew about their lives and their families. You were served top notch food, of course. And you got to experience “the closest thing to being on a rocket” when the Concorde cleared the airspace over residential areas, tilted up, and blasted its afterburners to go supersonic.

We then got to go into the cockpit, which was also impressive.

concorde cockpit

We then walked through the Intrepid itself. They give you an amazing amount of access to the ship; you can have lunch at the Au Bon Pain on the same deck of the ship where the galley and mess halls were (both of which have been restored much to what they looked like).

galley in intrepid

As you walk up and down the decks, you can see where the crew slept (there’s a separate part of the museum where you can lie in an actual bunk).

bunks in the intrepid

 

You can also watch a movie about the Intrepid in the area where the elevator to lift planes from the Hanger to the Flight Deck was, see the gigantic chains and ropes that controlled the anchor, and visit the Bridge where Admirals controlled entire fleets–and had a great view to boot.

flight deck of intrepid on beautiful day

One of my favorite parts of the tour was this model constructed out of 250,000 Legos. They did a great job of making the museum interesting for kids–there are hands-on exhibits where kids can feel what it’s like to sit in a helicopter or to sleep on a bunk or to send Morse code.

There was also the relatively new pavilion that housed the Space Shuttle Enterprise (which was actually never a shuttle but a test vehicle that made the other shuttles possible)

enterprise space shuttle

We finished with quick tour of the flight deck to view different planes on display.

Overall, it was an excellent day. And what made it more excellent was that by the time we were done, I saw there were three bikes at the dock again. We hightailed it to the bike station, and there were in fact about five bikes there, with a woman returning a bike just as we got there. I’m pretty sure it was mostly the luck of the draw and timing–I’ll take it, but it could just as easily have been empty, in which case we would have had to walk 6 blocks down to 12th and 40th and failing that, probably walking all the way back to Penn. But today turned out to be a great day.

I wanted to bike down the beautiful bike path that goes up and down the West Side, but it was getting late. Perhaps for another day.

As for the deal, for me it was a great one as it just made my per-ride cost of my annual membership that much lower. But for my wife, had we paid full price for the 24 hour pass, we would actually have LOST money–a cab ride would have probably been about the same price and a bus ticket would have been cheaper. But with the Groupon deal, we pretty much broke even on the cost ($5 for a Citi Bike vs. two $2.50 fares).

We do have more Citi Bike passes to use, so I’ll be doing another “tourist for a day” in the coming weeks and will have a ride report on that. I’ll call today’s biking a success, though.

  • Cost per ride: $95/48=$1.98 per ride
  • Stress: 2 of 10
  • Aggravation: 2 of 10