December 31st, NYC mayor de Blasio proudly announced that there have been 10 million Citi Bike rides in 2015. I was responsible for four of them. 

After visiting my family in Connecticut for holidays, my beau and I spent a week in NYC. The city is not known as bike friendly so I braced myself for some taxi death threats and angry van drivers. But I was pleasantly surprised how easy and pleasant my cycling was.  I cycled on the 5th Ave and in Central Park and would recommend it to both tourists and locals. 

All the efforts of NYC cycling enthusiasts are definitely paying off making it easier to cycle around in the city for both locals and tourists.

Bicycle access:

For short-term access (24 hours or 7 days), you go to the docking station and using credit card get a code with which you can access any of the available bikes. Not available for online booking. 

With the printed code you go to the available bike, put the code and get access to the bike. The first time it is a bit confusing where and how exactly to put the code and it does not help that you have to use the code within 5 minutes. But not to despair: if you aren't able to use your ride code within 5 minutes, you can obtain another code by swiping your credit card at the kiosk and requesting a new ride code. You are not charged for requesting additional ride codes during your Access Pass period. 

Once you got a hang of how to get a code and where to put it the code, it seems very easy. 

Cost:

24-hour Citi Bike access is $9.95 plus tax. For two  bicycles we paid $21.67 for 24-hour access to the bikes. Despite our efforts, we didn’t manage to return the bikes within 30 min, so another $8.71 was charged. 

First 30 minutes: free

Additional 30 minutes: $4 plus tax (after that it gets very expensive: additional 30 minutes is $9 plus tax, and then any other additional 30 minutes will cost $12)

Deposit of $101 for each bike is placed on a credit card (when I first checked my bank statement and saw $202 hold on my card, my heart stopped for a bit. But there were no problems with the bikes, so the hold was cleared within a couple of days). 

Availability: 

There are plenty of bike stations in Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. At the moment in Manhattan, Citi Bike stations are only as far as E&W 85th streets. The expansion of docking stations is planned for 2017.

Beware that not all NYC is covered with stations. 

Beware that not all NYC is covered with stations. 

 

Pros:

Singing up, paying, and checking out bikes is not difficult. Especially taking bicycles the second time seemed intuitive and easy.

The Citi Bike is designed to be heavy but comfortable.  Breaks and gears worked well on all bikes. The seats are easily adjustable.

If you stay within lower Manhattan, there are plenty of bikes and stations. 

Cons:

The price for very short trips is steep. In total, it cost $30.38 for a couple of hours of cycling for two people around Central Park. (If you are visiting NYC and the price is too much for Citi Bikes, check out cycle.land. There are community members who share their bikes for less in NYC. )

The docking station was not available where we were staying, so we had to take a subway to the Columbus circle. We needed two bikes which proved to be difficult around there and we had to go to a particular bike parking spot as the other ones did not have two working bikes.

Overall experience:

There is nothing like cycling on 5th Ave in the sunshine with cars and busses passing slowly. Everything seems in slow motion and more like a movie than my imagination of how riding a bicycle in NYC should be. Central Park was a welcome escape from cars, city sights and noises. There is a wide road going all the way around Central Park, parts of which is only accessible to bicycles and pedestrians, other parts are shared with cars, horses, bicycles, runners. It was my first time riding in the Central Park and I fell in love with it. Yes, there were fast riders with fancy bikes swooshing by, inspiring envy, but I was very happy on a heavy, slow, and comfortable Citi Bike.