Bike sharing schemes tested, part 2: Citi Bike in New York

During my recent trip to the United States, I had a chance to test two local bike sharing schemes: Hubway in Boston and Citi Bike in New York.

This is the second part of my review, focusing on the Citi Bike scheme in New York. (Read part one on Boston’s Hubway bike scheme here.)

A New York Citi Bike station seen from above.

Introducing New York’s Citi Bike

New York’s blue Citi Bike scheme has been available in Manhattan and Brooklyn since 2013. In 2015 the network has been expanded to cover other areas as well.

The system has over 7400 bikes and 330 stations and is operational all year round (Boston’s Hubway system has been closed during previous winter seasons).

A Citi Bike station in Manhattan.

Impressive user statistics, rather high pricing

The Citi Bike scheme seems very popular. According to company statistics, there were 1,3 million rides alone in September 2015, with an average of 42,990 rides per day. On average, each bicycle in the system had just under six rides per day last September.

Prices for using the bikes are as follows:

  • 24-hour rental 9,95 $
  • 7-day pass 25,00 $
  • Annual subscription 149,00 $.

Each ride is free for up to 30 minutes. For rides of 30-60 minutes users pay 4 dollars extra, for 60-90 minutes 9 dollars, and after that the price is 12 dollars for every additional 30 minutes. Annual members get 45 minutes  for free and have smaller extra fees.

The prices seem a bit on the high side, but then again, using the subway in New York cost us about 10 dollars per day per person as well, and with the bikes you get an unlimited number of trips per day.

We didn’t have any trouble returning our bikes in New York, as the docking stations had free slots every time we needed them. To keep the number of bikes and slots convenient for users, the company says it provides twice as many docking points as bicycles, and it also evens out the number of bikes at stations regularly. For example in September 2015, they rebalanced over 86 000 bikes.

Citi Bike map in Brooklyn.

3 bike sharing schemes compared: Brussels’ Villo much cheaper and has good network coverage

Compared to Brussels’ Villo bike scheme, using a shared bike in Boston and New York is much more expensive. Renting a Villo bike in Brussels costs only 1,60 € per day or 7,65 € for a week, and an annual subscription is priced at just over 30 euros. Additional 30 minutes per ride cost between 0,5 € and 2 euros.

The Villo scheme has a good network of 359 stations covering the Brussels Capital region. This is really good coverage compared to Boston’s station network (140). Even in New York, where there are 8,5 million inhabitants and over 50 million tourists every year, the number of stations is not that much higher (about 440).

A Villo station in Brussels.

Systems easy to use, visibility of stations could be better

Both US schemes were easy to use for first-timers. Renting out a bike is relatively quick after registering, and it can all be done at the station. Both schemes have a similar code system for unlocking the bikes, and annual subscription holders get a key to unlock bikes even more easily.

Both the Hubway and Citibike could benefit from making their stations more visible, especially in the dark. Often we walked or cycled past stations as we could not see them. One suggestion would be to add a distinctive light or a tall sign to improve stations’ visibility.

City Bike stations can be difficult to spot at night.

Biking is a good way to explore the city

The bikes are a good option for discovering New York and Boston, as cycling can give you a new perspective on the city and its streets. We were also lucky to have sunny and warm days in November. Cycling over the Brooklyn Bridge was a great experience, and the bikes were very convenient for moving from one part of Manhattan to another.

Cycling over Brooklyn bridge.

What are your experiences with bike sharing schemes?


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