Citi Bike (stations) come to Brooklyn!
On Saturday, Transportation Alternative’s Paul Steely White nearly broke the Internet when he posted the first picture of a Citi Bike station on a New York City street. Before this weekend the only other sightings were confined to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where a small test program was being conducted, and many people, myself included, were more than relieved to see Paul’s picture of a station on Monroe Street and Classon Ave in Bed-Stuy. Citi Bike is finally on its way.
I headed over to Bed-Stuy on Sunday to get a few more pictures and swung by another station at Fulton Street and Grand Ave in Clinton Hill. First, Monroe and Classon. (Click on any picture for a full-sized version.)
As you can see, there’s a very prominent sign on the docking station’s kiosk displaying the station’s street and neighborhood location, printed in a font that should be familiar to any regular mass transit user. Functioning largely as a wayfinding map, this side of the kiosk has a small CitiBank logo, and the impression I got when I rode up on the station was that it fit into the overall feel of a typical New York City street environment, even a residential one.
This is the station’s solar pole, allowing the docking station to exist off-the-grid.
Above, a close-up view of the wayfinding map. One nice thing about these is that the maps are oriented in the direction one faces while reading it, rather than in a typical fashion with north at the top. You can more or less crane your head around the station and see Franklin Ave at the end of the block or turn around and see Classon Ave directly behind you, just as it is on the map. Think of a tourist who has to read a map upside down as he’s walking south in Manhattan and you’ll know how helpful this kind of layout can be for the geographically challenged.
This particular station has 19 docks and is located in the parking lane of the street. (The bikes are coming soon, presumably after a much larger number of stations are in place closer to the launch date in May.) For now, traffic barrels and yellow tape block off the area around the station to discourage motorists from parking next to the empty docks.
Back to the kiosk again. Here’s the most important part for anyone looking to purchase a 24-hour or 7-day pass. (Annual members won’t interact with this part of the station very much and will instead simply insert their key fob directly into a dock to unlock or return a bike.)
The prices and fees are no surprise, but seeing them listed on the street really reinforces the idea that Citi Bike won’t compete with longer tourist rentals; a ride of just over one hour would cost
$22.95 $26.95. All the other policies are clearly laid out, and while I’m sure we’ll read a few stories in the Post — or Gothamist! — about some poor sap who mistakenly took out a Citi Bike out for a five-hour leisure ride from the Battery to the Little Red Lighthouse with a picnic in between, that rider won’t be able to say he wasn’t warned. And don’t leave the bike leaning against a street sign while you run in to a bodega to grab a bottle of water. While theft hasn’t been an issue with other bicycle sharing systems, you’ll be out “up to $1000 plus administrative fees” if the bike is stolen.
The rules of the road are spelled out very clearly on the kiosk. If you think about it, this will arguably be the best and most direct communication about street etiquette to people on bikes in years. I’m of the opinion that courtesy to others trumps fidelity to the law, so it’s especially nice to see that “Yield to pedestrians” is the first idea on the list. The last one, “Ride with traffic,” strikes me as leaving a bit to be desired, since it could be interpreted by some to mean, “Don’t ride on the sidewalk or on pedestrian pathways, ride where all the cars are instead.” Perhaps “Ride in the same direction of traffic” was too cumbersome, but don’t expect this last rule to stop salmon any time soon.
Users are told that “Helmets are encouraged,” and instructed to visit nearby bike shops. Considering how industrious New Yorkers can be, however, I’m guessing it won’t be long before the same guys who pop up with umbrellas every time there’s the threat of rain set up helmet concessions near Citi Bike stations in popular tourist areas as well.
MasterCard is the “Preferred Payment Sponsor” of CitiBike, so there’s PayPass branding under the keypad.
The bright blue ad on the inner side of the kiosk stands in contrast to the muted tones on the other side, but we’ll see how these change once the system goes live. The tagline under the Citi Bike name — “The bikes are coming very soon. Seriously.” — seems like a nice nod to those who are aware of the system’s many delays, at least for the inside baseball types. And for those with no clue about software troubles or Sandy flooding, it probably just seems like a very New York answer to the very New York question, “What’s going on here?”
The station attracted a fair amount of curiosity while I was there on Sunday and I wasn’t the only one out snapping pictures. The young girl above was having a great time using the docks as a curbside playground. Isn’t it amazing how a bike share station can make people engage with the street in a different way than a parked car?
More curious inspection, above.
A close-up of a dock. Bikes have a triangular locking mechanism on the front which fits into the dock.
Here’s a view of the station on the curbside. The gap between the station and the curb might be problematic as it could collect trash. I know Capital Bike Share and Hubway are meticulous when it comes to upkeep, but expect Citi Bike crews to be busy depending on how and where stations are placed.
I happened upon another station at Fulton Street and Grand Avenue. This one is located on the sidewalk and has 31 docks. It’s also perfectly placed right next to a bus stop. Hop off of a bus, grab a bike, go home. Or drop off a bike, get on a bus, and go to work. Either way, it’s a perfect illustration of how bike share complements an existing transit system.
“Soon a lot more people will have a key to the city,” written against the silhouette of a bicycle wheel, seems like an acknowledgment to something regular users of bicycles already know. It’s also a sign that Citi Bike’s marketing will tend toward the positive, which is always a good idea.
Just like at Classon and Monroe, curious passers-by take in the new street furniture.
More and more stations will be added as we near Citi Bike’s May launch and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out when the switch if flipped on the whole system, especially when stations are placed in more prominent or iconic New York locations. For now we’ll just have to revel in the excitement that has already greeted these first stations’ appearance in Brooklyn.