These 10 simple tips and tricks will keep you comfortable and confident on a Citi Bike. Seasoned bikers may scoff at this advice, but it has kept me safe and not sorry. Recommend reading for every Citi Biker!
10. Saved by the bell
On sensory-overloaded streets, a bell isn’t a resonant wake up call to pedestrians texting in the bike lane or self-centered drivers turning without looking (see #2). Yet riding without a working bell feels like going into battle without a shield. Citi Bike bells get pushed forward into the handlebar and become inoperable. Restore faith: cup your hand under the bell and pull it towards you—before the gasping realization that it’s jammed.
9. Adjust your seat before you undock the bike
I shake my head at those who undock a bike and then struggle to adjust the seat, which—like alligator wrestling—requires two hands and plenty of elbow grease. When the bike is securely docked the stubborn seat adjustment lever is much easier to manage. Bonus tip: while the bike is in the dock and off the clock, load and fasten your bag in the basket.
8. Raise your seat
Knees knocking into your forehead? Raising your seat to an appropriate height gives your legs more thrusting power and makes you look less like a bear on a bicycle. Get the height right: make sure the toes and balls of your feet comfortably hit the ground when stopping. If your whole sole rests on the pavement, the seat is probably too low. Wearing formal attire or dress shoes? Lower the seat an extra number to compensate for reduced mobility.
7. Choose the right color
When selecting a bike, you have choices beyond bank blue. Based on the month of servicing, a color zip tie is wrapped around an eyelet at the opening of the seat pole hole. Frequent riders will notice the emergence of a new color at the beginning of each month. The average bike is used seven times a day, so if you’re riding a June-color bike at the end of July, it’s overdue for maintenance. chances are the brakes are going to slip and squeal like Wilbur the pig on ice.
6. Wear gloves
Sticky rubber handles make my bare palms recoil. Gripping with protection gives me peace of mind and sleight of hand. But less is more. Citi Bike’s handles are already so rubbery that padded gel gloves feel like steering with oven mitts. I use Nike’s Fundamental Training Gloves (Men's and Women's) because they are easily washable, lightweight and fit in my back pocket when I’m off the bike and traveling light without a bag. Plus, meeting friends while wearing open fingertip gloves elevates your look from broke biker to bad ass weightlifter.
5. Let the traffic bleed dry
Picture this: you’re stopped at a light in front of five vehicles on a side street with a bike lane. A double parked car is blocking your lane up ahead. Do you really want to insert yourself into the path of drivers eager to gun it on green? Instead, travel as far as you can in the bike lane, and at the obstruction pause to let the traffic flow by. Then resume with no pressure. You’ve lost 20 seconds but gained peace of mind.
4. Look behind you
Danger rapidly approaches from the rear. A quick head check of what’s behind you will prepare you on how to maneuver through the upcoming intersection. This takes practice, but frequent quick checks behind you reduce surprise attacks on your right of way and put speeding cyclists on your radar.
3. Rely on avenues with bike lanes
Whether it’s a tourist tottering on a Citi Bike across Canal or bike messengers expertly wearing through express buses on Madison, I say a little prayer for their safety. Bikes have the right to use any road, but avenues in the center of Manhattan are hostile territory, as are traffic-clogged crosstown arteries like Canal Street. Despite the lower 25 mph speed limit, drivers have a highway mentality on avenues and little desire to share double wide crosstown lanes with bikes.
To travel north and south, rely instead on bike-friendly lanes on 1st and 2nd Avenues on the East Side and 8th and 9th Avenues on the West Side. The inadequately striped bike lane on 6th Avenue can be scary, especially after it disintegrates at 42nd Street as traffic speeds towards Central Park.
And while Broadway is great for world-class theater, it ain’t so for biking. Broadway in Times Square is a pedestrian zoo with three costumed Elmos at every corner. Commuters and tourists colliding around Herald Square make biking there more hassle than it’s worth. The car-free Hudson River Greenway that parallels the West Side Highway is the most scenic and safest north-south route.
2. Reality trumps right of way
Turning vehicles transform the sanctity of bike lanes into a danger zone of uncertain intersection. Forward moving bikes own the right of way over turning cars, but drivers don’t always see or want to see a two-wheeler take priority.
Cutting in front of a turning vehicle is the most dangerous maneuver I see on a daily basis. Instead of confronting a driver who may not see you, slow down and slip behind that turning vehicle—often slowed by crossing pedestrians—and in front of the car behind it waiting to turn next. That second car is more likely to see you and grant the right-of-way.
1. Wrong on red
Patience is a virtue and it can save your life on a bike. Unfortunately, out on the street New Yorkers don’t have any appetite for waiting, and cyclists have the least patience of all. Pedestrians deserve peace of mind to cross safely in the crosswalk with the light in their favor. Since every biker is also a pedestrian, the Golden Rule of doing unto others makes perfect sense here. Red runners damage the reputation of all bikers. Don’t be a douche. Stretch, catch your breath, change the song or look up at the architecture, and go on green.
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