Update: I renewed my membership in January 2016.
Today, marks the one-year anniversary of my joining New York City’s bike-share program, better known as Citi Bike. Because I signed up for the $95 annual membership, I am supposed to renew today. But I am not going to renew. At least not yet.
Last year, I was really excited about the program. I recommended it as a good alternative to buying a bike if you just wanted something to get around town. You could save yourself hundreds of dollars in buying a bike and ride it only when you needed it. You also never had to worry about it getting stolen because you never parked it for an extended period because it started to rain or you had too many adult beverages. You just found another way to get home.
Some people who signed up for the program saw it as a great utility. Dan Frommer emphatically wrote that Citi Bike was as useful as an iPhone, and that it changed how he moved around the city. Citi Bike for me was a great alternative to taking the subway. For days when I needed to make a series of short trips around the city, Citi Bike moved me from place-to-place, with unmatched economy, that hasn’t been possible since the days of the unlimited one-day Metrocard, affectionately known as the “Fun Pass.”
There was something that “Fun Pass” could do in its day that Citi Bike still cannot do: Citi Bike cannot get me home. Citi Bike was supposed to come to my section of Long Island City in the first phase of the program. But because of Sandy and the financial and technological difficulties the program has faced, it has not expanded beyond the sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn it has served since launch day.
Ideally, for someone who already owns two bikes, the bike-share program would fill in for those days when I can’t ride my own bike. Today, for example, it rained in the morning so I couldn’t ride to NYU. Instead, I rode the subway into Manhattan. In the afternoon, the rain had stopped, and I could have biked somewhere else, if not home then to meet a friend or whatever. But at the end of the day, I have to either ride the subway or take a bus to get home. In this scenario, which is pretty common because it rains about once every three days in New York City, I may was well not even have a Citi Bike membership.
Because it can’t supplement my own bike or our city’s developed mass transit, I am not renewing my membership. There are however a couple of factors that might change my mind:
- I open a bank deposit account at a credit union. Credit union members get a discounted, annual membership for $60 plus tax. If I pay with a Citibank-branded card, I also get a $15 statement credit. A yearly membership, with these discounts, would cost a little more than $50. That’s a bargain.
- They expand to Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Long Island City. It’s still incredible to me that Citi Bike is not available in Williamsburg north of Metropolitan Avenue and nowhere in Greenpoint where residents rely on G train or a few bus lines. Expanding to Long Island City and these parts of Brooklyn would mean I could take Citi Bike to where I normally live, work, and play. In this case, Citi Bike could actually be as useful as an iPhone.
In the meantime, however, I’m sticking to pedalling my own bike and, on occasion, swiping a Metrocard.