Riding a bike in the city has always terrified me.
Come on, have you ever seen how New Yorkers drive? Now imagine this:
New York Drivers + Clumsy Melanie = Disaster Waiting to Happen
Seriously though, it seems like a pretty bad idea. That didn’t stop me from accepting an invitation from my friend, Nicole, to ride bikes downtown one Saturday. I met up with Nicole, her cousin, and Deb to start the adventure . . . and that’s when things started to go wrong.
I will spare you the details, but it turns out Citibikes didn’t work out all of the kinks in their rental process before installing them this past spring. There are rental stations all over the lower west side and downtown, and in theory, it’s great. You pay for a day, you check out a bike, and you return it to another station. I guess it works ok if you are just commuting from one place to another, but if you’re looking to take a leisurely ride around the city, DON’T RENT A CITIBIKE. Now I know why the rental company competition was hanging around the stations. I bet they get a lot of business from frustrated Citibike customers.
You have to check the bikes in every half an hour, and by the time the four of us got our bikes, it was almost time for Nicole to check hers back in. So we rode to a nearby check-in point just to get a feel for riding in the crazy cit-ay traffic.
SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t die.
I thought I might, especially when Nicole started leading us the wrong way down the one way bike lane, but we made it to the check-in without incident. We all checked our bikes back in and got codes to get them again, but mine wouldn’t work. So I got another code, and another one, and another one, but to no avail. Arrrggghhh!
At this point I was frustrated, Deb was offering me her bike, I was refusing, and Nicole was telling both of us that we are too stubborn and independent for our own good. The only thing we could agree on was lunch.
Lunch is always a good idea. Especially if it’s from Shake Shack!
After lunch we went and tried the bikes again, and had better luck. We rode along the Hudson River Parkway trail and over some cobblestone streets in Greenwich Village (that wasn’t a great idea on a commuter bike with no shocks). It wasn’t long before I was riding my bike like a New Yorker. It’s a lot the same as walking like a New Yorker—you always have the right of way and traffic signals mean nothing. Come to think of it, it’s kind of miraculous that I’m still alive.
It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that the bikes were still a pain. (Check-ins every half an hour? Come on! We were a couple minutes late at one stop and got charged an extra $10/each for it. Ouch!)
While I’m not ready to commit to riding a bike around the city all the time (I can only take my life into my own hands so many times before it starts to seem reckless), I’m definitely game to rent them again one day soon.