It feels like I have been waiting forever for New York’s bike sharing program to get off the ground. The system finally opened today for annual members (like me; It will open to everyone else a week from now), so I took one out for a brief spin. Here are my observations:
1. The bikes feel sturdy and easy to use (once you figure out how to undock them) and are generally a pleasure to ride.
2. It isn’t exactly obvious what the rules are when one is not in a well marked bike lane, and the handbook they provided is rather mute on the subject, but I will figure it out.
3. The weather is gorgeous out today, which made for a great riding experience. I wonder what it will be like in rain and snow and cold.
4. I know I should wear a helmut, though I don’t have one yet.
5. I would like to see more bike lanes built (like on 10th ave).
6. Predictably, my biggest gripes with the system are technology related:
a. The map was down so you couldn’t tell what stations were available, etc. This is a temporary problem that they will fix, but it did not inspire confidence that it was down on the first day
b. The phone app should automatically alert you when you are close to being out of riding time (45 minutes) and direct you to the nearest open station, but there is no part of it to do so. You can set an alarm in the app (but you could do this on your regular clock so big woop) and search directly for open stations (when it is up and running that is).
c. The app should have a way for you to login and see your current account info, trips taken, etc. (You can do this on the website, but not in the app).
All in all, I am super excited and realize that the program is still in its early days, so perhaps they will fix some of the things above. I feel pretty confident that the system will become as popular as it is in other cities, and it will be great to see it expanded to uptown and other boroughs soon. All the hand-wringing and belly aching in the press about them up until now I am completely nonplussed by, it is all bullshit. I have especially little patience for people who talk about them destroying the “character” of their neighborhoods, when they are just fine and dandy with cars in the same spots now allotted to a small number of bikes. They will get used to them the way they are used to any other part of the urban environment, and soon neighborhoods will be begging for them.