9 Essential Citi Bike Tips

July 6, 2013 6:00 am Last Updated: July 5, 2013 11:33 pm

1. Use the app. Phone dead? Use the kiosk.

The Citi Bike app is essential for taking full advantage of the bike share program. You can use it to find bike share stations and to tell how many bikes a station has. It is important to check how many bikes are docked at a station before walking to it to pick one up. There is also a chance that the station you plan to dock at is full, so check the number of bikes at both the origin and the destination.

Phone dead? Use the kiosk at the station. The kiosk has the same features as the mobile app.

2. Check the bike: bell, chain, tires

Avoid a bike ride from going sour by checking your bike before you ride. I check out the tires, the chain, and the bell. The tires should be pumped full, the chain should be taut, and the bell should ring. A broken bell is a big annoyance, since there is no way to alert careless pedestrians who wander into the bike lane or to signal to turning cars.

3. Seat height: lower is better

You might have the urge to put the seat all the way up, but consider this: the bike is heavy, there are lots of traffic lights to stop at, and many tight squeezes between cars. Set your seat so that you can comfortably reach the ground with your feet, or at least toes. This will allow you to stop and rest comfortably at red lights and keep balanced as you zigzag between cars.

4. Keep it in third gear

There are three gears on a the Citibike, but really, there is just one. I’m yet to find a use for the first and second gears—maybe they were made for tiny kids?

5. Full dock? Get free time.

If you are nearing your free trip limit and come to dock at a station that happens to be full, you can go to the kiosk and request extra time to go to another station. Scan your Citibike key if you are an annual member or swipe your credit card otherwise and request free time. An additional 15 minutes will be added to your ride so you can get to another station.

6. Report broken bikes

If the bike you took out happens to be broken or if something break while you ride, you can push a button on the bike to report the problem. Once you push the button, the bike dock will have a ride light. If the red light does not go on after pressing the button, turn your seat backwards to alert other riders that the bike is broken.

7. Every lane is a bike lane

Remember that with the exception of the highways you can ride on nearly every road in New York City. Be confident and make sure you give the drivers enough time to see you making turns and switching lanes.

8. Consider traffic direction

It is both illegal and annoying to other riders to ride in the wrong direction. Plan your route with consideration for the direction in which the traffic flows. With a handful of exceptions, car traffic in Manhattan moves east on even-numbered streets and west on odd-numbered streets. Avenues alternate direction, so if you are on 9th Avenue which has southbound traffic, you can assume that 8th and 10th Avenues have northbound traffic.

9. And at last: safety first

Bike safety can be summarized in three simple instructions: be predictable, be confident, and be confident. If you can do all three, safety is assured. Drivers will adjust to your presence on the road—and if you do all three right they will respect you for being considerate.