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What Are Citi Bikes & How Do They Work?

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Key Takeaways

  • Citi Bike is NYC’s largest bike-sharing program with over 25,000 bikes across multiple boroughs.
  • Offers flexible membership levels including single rides, day passes, and annual subscriptions.
  • Convenient app-based service allows easy bike rental and return without paperwork.
  • Promotes eco-friendly transportation with cost-effective solutions and robust coverage in urban areas.

What Are Citi Bikes?

Citi Bike is the largest bike-sharing program based in New York City, operating with over 25,00- bikes. It has more than 1,500 stations spread throughout Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Hoboken, and Jersey City.

Citi Bike was first proposed by NYC’s Department of Transportation in 2008, however, it officially launched in 2013. Its popularity keeps soaring, with over 180,000 annual subscribers and more than 130,000 riders per day.

Citi Bike aims to make bike rides accessible to everyone. The publicly available fleet of reliable bikes supports the company’s mission of providing convenient transportation with low environmental impact.

With the streets of New York City getting busier and car fares climbing up, many of the area’s residents are considering alternatives. The Citi Bike system is a more affordable option that also keeps you active while being practically emissions-free.

This guide is here to help you have a comprehensive understanding of Citi Bike.

We’ll explore the innovative service’s memberships, including their costs, types, and benefits. We’ll also cover how you can use Citi Bike and share key considerations for potential members.

What is Citi Bike Membership?

Citi Bike offers users varying membership levels to cater to their different transportation needs and budgets. There’s a single-ride option, a day pass, an annual subscription, or an all-access package.

Single Ride

The most basic Citi Bike plan is the single ride. It’s a solid choice if you want to get from point A to point B in a convenient, green method.

The single ride grants you access to a classic bike for 30 minutes at a rate of $4.79. This should be enough to run an errand around the block, head to your friends’ meet-up point, or make a trip to a nearby restaurant.

In this ride format, each minute you’re riding a classic bicycle beyond the initial 30 minutes costs an extra $0.30.

As for ebikes, single-ride users pay $0.30 per minute from the start of the ride.

Day Pass

This format provides users with access to a Citi Bike classic bicycle or ebike over 24 hours for a reduced price compared to the single-ride option. It’s ideal for recreational cycling whether exploring or sightseeing.

If you pay $19 for the day pass, you can take an unlimited number of 30-minute rides using classic bikes.

To avoid paying extra fees, you must return the bike to a station and start a new ride before the 30 minutes are up. If you go beyond the 30-minute mark, then every 15 minutes will cost an additional $4.

The daily pass option doesn’t affect the pricing of ebikes though. They still cost $0.30 per minute from the start of the ride without an unlock fee.

Annual Membership

If you’re a frequent bike rider residing in NYC or Jersey City, you should consider joining Citi Bike’s annual membership. You’ll pay $2019.99 for the whole year (that’s $18.33 per month) to enjoy the following benefits:

  • An unlimited number of rides using classic bikes, each lasting 45 minutes.
  • No unlock fees.
  • Every minute longer than the initial 45 minutes costs an extra $0.20.
  • For ebike rides, you’ll pay $0.20 per minute, capped at $4 for 45-minute or shorter rides leaving or entering Manhattan.
  • Uninterrupted access to thousands of bikes in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Hoboken, and Jersey City.
  • Three guest passes free of charge per year.
  • Access to priority support.
  • You become eligible to earn points through the Bike Angels Rewards Program.

Lyft Pink

If you want to take your bike riding to the next level, you can join Lyft Pink All Access. This is Citi Bike’s ultimate subscription, costing $199 a year ($16.58 per month).

This package offers the best value for users. It grants them all the perks of the annual membership plus various benefits via Lyft and Grubhub services, including;

  • Country-wide access to bikes and scooters.
  • No hassle cancellations for Lyft rides.
  • Charge-free upgrades for Priority Pickups on Lyft rides.
  • Reduced pricing on Lyft XL, Preferred, and Lux rides.
  • Complimentary Grubhub+ subscription.
  • Free SIXT car rental upgrades.

Reduced Fare Bike Share Membership

If you’re a NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) resident or a recipient of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), you can sign up for monthly memberships. These cost $5 per month and offer the following;

  • An unlimited number of rides using classic bikes, each lasting 45 minutes.
  • No unlock fees.
  • Every minute longer than the initial 45 minutes costs an extra $0.20.
  • For ebike rides, you’ll pay $0.10 per minute.
  •  Access to thousands of bikes in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Jersey City.

Free 30-Day Membership

Businesses can benefit from Citi Bike’s free 30-day subscriptions to see if they’ll work well for their employees.

These offer free 45-minute rides using classic bicycles and ebikes. Every extra minute will cost $0.15.

How to Use Citi Bike: A Quick Guide

The process of using a Citi Bike is straightforward and anyone can do it. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial:

  1.  Download the app on your phone and create an account. If you already have a Lyft account, you can send your information to the Citi Bike app.
  2. Allow location-sharing with the app so you can view bike stations in your area and the availability of bikes.
  3. Choose a plan and add your payment details.
  4. Once the payment is processed, the app will direct you to the nearest station.
  5. When you arrive at the docking station, use your phone’s camera to scan the QR code on one of the bikes. If you’re an annual member, you can alternatively use a bike key.
  6.  Once the light turns green, you can take the bike out of its dock to use.
  7. To end your ride, open the app and find the nearest station.
  8. Tap on the station to see how many docks are available.
  9. Make your way to the station and line up the triangle at your bike’s front with the dock.
  10. Push the bike into the dock firmly but gently.
  11. Hold the bike in place until the light turns green (at least 5 seconds).
  12. The dock will register the return and you’re free to leave or start a new ride.

Is Citi Bike Membership Worth It? An Analysis

Citi Bike’s costs and fees are overall affordable, especially when you opt for the annual membership. Its cost-effectiveness shines through when you compare its prices with other transportation modes and ride-share apps.

Not to mention, experiencing delays associated with taxis, cars, buses, and subways is rare when you use a bike. Even as an alternative to Lime bikes, Citi Bike dominates in terms of coverage and availability within NYC.

If you’re a frequent bike rider, you’re looking at a $16-$18 monthly fee for the annual subscription. You get unlimited 45-minute rides, which is cheaper than Lime’s $1 unlock fee and per-minute rates.

Things to Keep in Mind

To be able to use Citi Bike, you must be at least 16 years old and obtain an access pass or an annual membership.

Make sure you plan your route ahead of time. This will save your precious time and keep you away from potentially dangerous traffic.

Also, be sure to get familiar with traffic signs, lights, and exceptions. For example, you can proceed with the walk signal when cycling in New York City.

To stay safe on the road, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Once you unlock a bike, you’ll need to adjust the seat height to ensure proper riding posture.
  • Squeeze the brakes to check their resistance.
  • Check that the tires are well-inflated.
  • Always wear a helmet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Citi Bike Owned By Citibank?

No, Citibank doesn’t own Citi Bike. However, Citibank is Citi Bike’s lead sponsor with a total spending of more than $110 million to put the bank’s name on the service’s bikes.

City Bike was owned by an Alta Bicycle Share subsidiary (NYC Bike Share) until Lyft acquired Alta in 2018.

What if the Citi Bike Rack is Full?

If you find the Citi Bike Rack full upon returning the bike, tap “time credit” on the kiosk’s touchscreen to get 15 extra minutes of ride time free of charge.

You’ll then receive directions to the nearest station with available empty docks. You can ride there to park your bike.

How Much Does a Citi Bike Cost if You Lose It?

If you lose a Citi Bike, you need to reach out to customer service (and file a police report if the bike was stolen or forcibly taken).

If it’s still missing after 24 hours, the account of the person who took out the bike will incur a $1,200 penalty.

Final Thoughts

Citi Bike is a handy app that offers cost-effective and convenient ways to get around New York City.

Not only is it affordable with minimal chances of delays, but it also promotes an active lifestyle while supporting environmental sustainability.

With multiple pricing plans available, you can choose one that best fits your specific transportation needs and budget.

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