Citi Bike Share Program Rolls Into Docking Stations Ahead Of Memorial Day Launch

By Serena Solomon

EAST VILLAGE — Bright blue Citi Bikes rolled into their docking stations on Friday ahead of the much-anticipated launch of the city's new bike share program.

Starting Memorial Day, the Citibank-sponsored bike share will open to those who pre-purchased a membership, giving them access to thousands of bikes at stations throughout southern Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.

Curious New Yorkers checked out the first arrivals on the Lower East Side and East Village Friday morning, describing the bikes as "chunky," "heavy" and "blue, very blue."

"I think the aesthetic is just, unfortunately, durability," said Kenny Lao, 36, the owner of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, who walked by the station at East 11th Street and First Avenue with his dog. "But it is a totally functional, awesome bike."  

"This is what super-stylish Parisians ride around on, right?" he added.

Lao said he had ridden similar bikes in other share programs in Washington D.C. and in Europe. He signed up for a yearly membership in New York and was waiting for his card to arrive in the mail.

Many East Villagers came out to inspect the new bikes, taking photos, sitting on seats and spinning wheels. The 45-pound bikes feature three gears, a rack and strap on the front to store bags and lights that are activated when the wheels spin, according to Citi Bike's website.

"Why are they so bulky?" asked Carolina Caicedo, 27, who lifted up the back of a locked-down bike. "It is so heavy, maybe too heavy."

Caicedo, a graphic designer who lives in the East Village,  also questioned the choice of blue and the use of the Citibank logo on the bike's frame, wheels and front storage unit.

"In Berlin, they are red and black because of the [German] flag. Red would have been a better choice for New York," Caicedo said.

Kevin McAward, a now-retired East Village resident of 30 years, said he intended to use the bikes when they are available June 2 for those who didn't pre-purchase a membership, but worried about the dangers of having so many new bikers on the road.

"They look great, but they are just going to create havoc," he said.

The initial rollout on Monday will see 6,000 bikes docked across 330 stations, with the program expected to grow to 10,000 bikes at 600 docking stations. Bike share membership costs $95 per year, $25 per week or $9.95 per day for unlimited use provided the ride is less than 45 minutes, according Citi Bike.

Larry Goldberg, 31, said the bright blue bikes with their unmistakable Citibank logo would warn motorists of potentially amateur bikers unaccustomed to riding in New York City. 

"They don't look like bikes that experienced people would ride," he said of the thick frames and chunky handlebars. "It's a warning to motorists to be more risk averse."

Goldberg said he intends to sign up for the program, living just a few doors down from the East 11th Street and First Avenue docking station.

"I like working out, getting exercise and its better than catching the subway," he said.