Citi Bike Draws the Curious, From NYC and Beyond

Citi Bike employees explain bike-share to passersby on Eighth Avenue. Photo: Brad Aaron

It wasn’t yet 11:00 when I got to the mammoth bike-share station on Eighth Avenue at 31st Street, which sits along the protected bike lane in front of the Post Office across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, but I hadn’t unpacked my camera before a Citi Bike user pedaled by. For the next hour or so, countless people stopped to check out the bikes, whether or not they actually rode away on one.

Greg Evans was using his Citi Bike key for the first time. He lives in the area and has been anticipating the rollout. Evans said it will be great for short rides around town: “When I’m out walking I think ‘If I had a bike I would use it now.'” After unlocking the bike and adjusting the seat, he was on his way up Eighth Avenue to go shopping.

Amanda Meehan of Hell’s Kitchen has questions about the price structure, and mentioned the stolen bike (which has since been recovered, Mayor Bloomberg said this morning). But she said she may sign up. “We’re just curious at this point,” Meehan said. “Like anything new in the city it has to get the kinks worked out.”

Randy from Albany comes to the city four times a week and plans to join once the system is open to new members. “You can walk downtown in half an hour or take a bike in 10 minutes,” he said, adding: “Blue is better than yellow.”

A pair of Citi Bike techs came by the station to check on the bikes. They said things were going smoothly. These guys not only keep the bikes going, but for the time being, at least, they’re Citi Bike ambassadors. During their short stop they handed out brochures and patiently explained the system to several passersby.

As did I, as best I could. Nadia and Etienne of Montreal vacation in the city regularly, and were trying to use a credit card to check out bikes until I told them of the initial members-only period. They use Bixi, though Etienne thinks bike-share is better suited to NYC, as it allows people in cramped apartments ready access to a bike without the hassle of storage. They were happy to see the system launch, but disappointed they couldn’t try it out this trip. For now, said Nadia, “We’ll continue with the cab.”

Susan Mitchell of Kendal, England, said she would hire a bike while visiting NYC. “They’re very popular in London,” she said.

Another gentleman from France, whose halting English was much better than my French, was excitedly taking video of the station. Once we established that an attempt at conversation would be futile, he pointed to the row of Citi Bikes, and in the universal language, exclaimed: “Velib!”