If you search the #CitiBike tag on Tumblr, this man’s face will haunt you for pages on end. He pops up over and over again–in different places around town, in different positions on different Citi Bikes, but the same steely-eyed gaze staring back at you.
Who is this man, you might ask, and why is he taking his picture with so many Citi Bikes?
He is a man on a mission. Or, rather, “a quest.”
Let me tell you a little bit about John Yaeger. John Yaeger used to be a Citi Bike skeptic. He assumed the bike share program was going to be too expensive.
He was slightly annoyed when they took out eight parking spaces in front of his building (“Wow, that’s a lot,” he thought) to make room for 50 bikes (“Do they really need that many?”).
He signed up anyway, though, and he wasn’t Citi Biking long before he felt a calling.
“It was just before 7:00PM on Sunday the 9th of June 2013 when I found Citibike 00085 on the corner of 52nd Street and 11th Avenue,” Yaeger, or CitiBiker, as he goes by online, writes on his Tumblr. “This began my quest to find as many of the first 100 Citibikes as possible.”
Last year, Yaeger, 41, did a New York City Iron Man race. He doesn’t see his quest to find the first 100 Citi Bikes as much different. He’s doing it, he says, “for no other reason than the challenge.”
Yaeger began chronicling his journey after a pair of tourists he chased down (in order to take a picture with one of their bikes) asked him how they could follow his progress.
Almost two months in, Yaeger has found 63 of the first 100 Citi Bikes–more than halfway toward completing his quest.
A quest like his isn’t for the faint of heart. “I probably rode Citi Bikes for over 12 hours this weekend and I was lucky to find two,” Yaeger says. “It gets harder and harder and harder. Right now I’m only looking for about 35 bikes out of 5,000–and they are going to add another 3,000 so my challenge is only going to get more difficult.”
Along the way, Yaeger (a self-described technology strategist by day) has started to think of himself as a kind of unofficial ambassador for Citi Bike.
“When I’m at the stations and I say, ‘Can I help you out?’ A lot of people, whether they are residents or they are tourists, they try and figure it out,” Yaeger says. “One of the first things they say is: ‘Oh, do you work for Citi Bike?’ ‘No.’ And then the second thing they say is, ‘What’s your motivation?’ And I, just–I just really love New York City.”
Send story tips to the author, Tessa Stuart