About a year and a half ago, I let my annual Citi Bike membership expire because the bikes never made it to Long Island City, where I lived at the time. Although I left the neighborhood for a different one on the banks of the Newtown Creek, it was more convenient to ride my own bike than participating in the bike share.
A lot has changed in the last eighteen months.
First, the bike share operation was acquired by another company, which has since invested a lot of money in the operation. The software was revamped and improved. Newer and better bikes started to appear at newer and farther flung stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and even Jersey City. After many delays, the bike share was finally available in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Long Island City, the neighborhoods where I spend the most time.
Those systemwide improvements were certainly reasons for my revisiting the local bike share, but there were two even more compelling reasons for actually renewing:
- As a member of the NYU Federal Credit Union, I am eligible for a $60 annual membership rate. Although the current annual rate of
$149$155 is considerably higher than the launch-day rate of $95, it is still a great deal. This is especially true when you consider that a 30-day unlimited Metrocard costs $116.50 and that $150 is about what you’ll spend for a decent bike lock and tires that won’t go flat every week. But being able to renew at $60 per year was simply irresistible.
- The most compelling reason for joining the bike share was that I wanted a “winter bike.” Each winter, I have to decide whether to continue cycling or to wedge himself into a crowded subway car or bus. Continuing to ride requires some modifications to my bike, including adding some fenders and installing fatter tires, to navigate the wet and slushy roads during this time of year. Sadly, my single-speed frame won’t accept those modifications too easily. The bike and I end up caked in salt and road mush after a few short miles. To avoid this, some riders go as far as getting a dedicated winter bike, and although I considered doing that, I remembered my own advice for using the bike share as your first bike. Citi Bike could be my
first secondthird bike.
In short, I renewed because, for sixty bucks, I now have access to a winter bike for riding on wet or slushy roads. I have saved myself the trouble of buying overpriced, ill-fitting fenders for my single-speed bike, I will ride with better traction due to the wider tires, and I will keep my drivetrain relatively clean. I’m also hoping that bikes will be actually be available, especially in my neck of the woods, as ridership presumably decreases during the colder months.
Of course, this solution has its limits. This past weekend’s historic storm shut down the bike share for five days, and I don’t feel comfortable riding any bike on icy roads in the city.
For those days, I will have to make do with the G train and a Metrocard.
Update: Citi Bike will raise its annual membership rate to $155, effective March 1, 2016. Also, it’s “Citi Bike,” not “Citibike.”