Setting out on a sunny, 72-degree day, Citi Bike’s first users hopped on their loud blue frames at 11 a.m. on Monday and took off. On its first day, the much-debated program tracked some 6,050 trips at an average of 20 minutes per–and added some 772 new annual members to more than 15,000 existing memberships.
We have no mass chaos, confusion, or bloodshed to report. But we did check in with two people who were able to try it out–a devoted cyclist who’s been riding in the city for the past 15 years, and a newbie who took his first city ride on Monday. Below, find quick first-day bikeshare takeaways from Doug Gordon, a documentary writer/producer and founder of blog Brooklyn Spoke, and Jay Denson, a Bronx native who made this how-to video for beginner bikeshare users after his first city ride.
Before Citi Bike, what kind of experience did you have cycling in the city?
Doug Gordon: I’ve been riding here since I moved here, since 1998–more in recent years. I used to ride to work all the time when I first moved.
Jay Denson: I’ve never ridden a bike in the city. I’ve done trails occasionally, but I never was a biker.
Which routes did you take?
DG: I kind of hopped all over. I went to the press conference at City Hall, and with some friends went up to Allen Street. Then we went crosstown and had lunch at La Esquina at Lafayette, and then went up to Astor Place, up Hudson Street, back down to the Village, over the Manhattan Bridge, and back home to Brooklyn. I think it worked out to nine trips. But to be fair, a couple of those trips were taking the bike out and putting it back in.
JD: I drove down to 59th Street, I parked my car, I took one from the docking station at 56th and 10th, rode down the West Side Highway, all the way until Bank Street. I used the app to time it–I got there in about 30 minutes. Then I exchanged bikes and continued down the West Side.
So, how’d it go?
DG: It was a 100 percent positive day. From other cyclists we got a lot of “Hey, nice bike!” and not in a snarky New York way you can sometimes get. There were a lot of bells being rung back and forth. One [pedestrian] yelled out “How were the bikes?” and we yelled back and they started clapping. A cabbie at an intersection said, “This is really cool.” Never in all my years have I had a day like this.
JD: The only thing I worry about is people riding the bikes not watching out for other pedestrians, but for the first day I didn’t encounter any negative instances with people, pedestrians, or with bikes themselves.
DG: The only issue I had was kind of getting used to pulling the bike out and docking it. It takes a couple of tries to getting it right. I liken it to anyone who’s a tourist trying to use a Metrocard. I’m sure it’s the kind of thing I do that after a dozen times it’ll be old hat.
JD: The only issue I did have, and I really did want to be critical, was that the app wasn’t working today. I knew some of the bike stations by memory, so I stuck to the West Side.
Any particularly memorable responses from drivers or pedestrians?
JD: I was in Battery Park and I was coming in the opposite direction, going toward the pier, and I got stopped by a cab driver who didn’t know what [Citi Bike] was. I told him how it worked and he didn’t seem bothered by it.
DG: I think the funniest moment I had was when I was waiting for a friend at Dean and Fourth. A driver pulls over, parks in the bike lane–double parks–goes right over the kiosk, looks at me and says, “What is this?” I tell her what it is, and she says “Wow, I’m gonna sign up when I get home!” That moment to me was that perfect New York moment–everybody’s better than you think they are. I think a lot of drivers are going to sign up.
Would you make note of possible issues for first-time riders?
JD: The only time I was worried–and I wouldn’t recommend it for other riders–is riding on the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s really congested. The more experienced riders get a little bit impatient. I would caution them in that area.
DG: To more experienced cyclists, I’d say look, don’t get frustrated with the so-called “wobbly” new cyclists. It’s going to be safer for everybody. [Drivers are] going to be more aware that there are tons and tons of cyclists. For the less experienced cyclists, it’s like what you say to a tourist coming to New York City for the first time: “Watch out. New Yorkers move fast.” To me it’s almost no different.