May 29, 2013 –New York City–Union Square and 17th St.
By Jen Benepe (C) Photos, Jen Benepe
Three days after it’s opening day, the Citibike bike share was going gangbusters at Union Square in New York City.
Standing along Park Avenue and 17th St., we witnessed more than five Citibike users sail past us on the bike lane in a matter of minutes.
Business was brisk at the bike terminal around the corner, along Union Square North between Park Ave. South and Broadway.
Al Muzaurieta who has been a resident of New York for 10 years said he already owns a bike, but was taking a Citibike out to get to an event at his daughter’s school on 14th St. and 1st Ave., about 10 blocks away, because it was convenient and quicker than walking.
He had already found a bike parking station on 16th St. and 1st Ave. using the Citibike app on his iPhone, which is where he would leave his bike when he got there.
The 36-year-old said he “has no complaints” about the system, but he doesn’t use it for long commutes because of the weight of the bicycle which comes in at 42 pounds.
A couple of minutes later, Jeff Ferzoco came by to pick up one of the glowingly blue bicycles. He was fastening his new helmet on his head as he unlocked the bike from its parking stand.
Ferzoco said he was heading to Grand Central Station to meet a friend for drinks, though he didn’t intend on riding back inebriated.
But he gives the system a lot of points because for one, it doesn’t feel “as treacherous” as riding in London.
“It’s my eighth trip in three days,” said Mr. Ferzoco, who added that both he and his husband went out to buy helmets together before the system launched on Sunday (May 27.)
Having tested bike share in other cities, including London, England, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, he said, “I’ve been waiting for it to come to New York,” he said.
Ferzoco doesn’t have space for a bicycle in his apartment, which makes the system very convenient. An added bonus? In three days he said he feels already like he’s in better shape.
But best of all he said the bikes “feel safer” because of their weight and their deliberate turning, so much so he even considered going out in the rain on Tuesday with his husband. When the reporter asked him if he felt safer because a motorist would be less likely to hit him because it would dent his car, he agreed: “It would be like hitting a deer.”
The arrival of the system is not without its hucksters, jokesters, misanthropes, and misunderstandings though.
Sitting on top of the resplendent line of gleaming blue bikes was a local worker, smoking cigarettes and passing out his opinion–more in the jokester category.
“These are Bloomberg’s bikes,” he said. “See the symbol right there?” he asked, poking his finger at the CitiBank logo. “That’s his bank, he owns everything! He owns 95 percent of New York City. So if you mess with the bikes, you are messing with Bloomberg,” he said enthusiastically. “And you don’t mess with a billionaire!”
He even saw Bloomberg riding one of the bikes on Sunday, the day of the launch: “Didn’t you see that on TV?” he asked, incredulous that I hadn’t.
The reporter wanted to know, did he think Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid for his ride on the Citibike? “Are you kidding me? He rode it for free, he ain’t paying nothing!” came the reply.
Needless to say, we saw a number of Citibike users who were disobeying the law as well. One took a handy left turn at 16th St., crossed with the pedestrians, and hopped up onto the sidewalk so he wouldn’t have to ride against traffic.
But there were just as many who stopped at lights, waiting patiently for the red light to change before going off on their gleaming blue way.