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How to Use Citi Bike: Instructions For Unlocking, Riding, and Returning

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From rideshares to truck shares, today, people keep finding new ways to save energy and money by sharing means of transportation.

One of the best companies is Citi Bike, a bike-sharing company in New York that offers convenient and affordable transportation to locals and tourists alike.

Using one of these services for the first time can be confusing sometimes.

To understand how Citi Bike works, read this complete guide of how to use Citi Bike, including unlocking, riding, and returning.

What Is Citi Bike?

Citi Bike is a New York-based bicycle-sharing company.

There are Citi Bike hubs located throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

Plus, they have Citi Bike stations in Hoboken and Jersey City in New Jersey, just below the state of New York.

Citi Bike has a phone application that allows you to pay and use their bicycles to travel from one point to another, where you can then find another Citi Bike station to dock the bicycle you borrowed.

Citi Bike and bicycle-sharing companies like it do wonders to provide people with convenient transportation so they can avoid traffic and gas-guzzling vehicles.

Citi Bike has a positive environmental impact, especially in such a densely populated area like New York City.

You can enjoy the city on a bicycle that you don’t need to worry about locking up or storing when you finish using it.

How Does It Work?

Using Citi Bike is fairly straightforward.

The first step is, well, to be in New York City or New Jersey.

Then, you can download the Citi Bike app and input your location.

Through the app, you can enter a payment method and purchase an annual membership or a short-term bike pass so you can access Citi Bike bikes.

Based on your location, the app will direct you to the closest Citi Bike docking station.

You will receive a ride code that will allow you to unlock one of the bikes at the hub, or you can use your member key to unlock it.

Once you unlock the bike, you can freely cycle anywhere around the city!

Members get the first 45 minutes of use free and then receive an additional charge every minute after the initial 45 minutes.

Short-term passes or day passes give the rider 30 minutes included and then charge extra for every minute after that.

So if you want, you can take a bike out for an entire day before returning it to a docking station.

If you visit New York City, Citi Bike is a great way to take a tour of the city without having to walk all day or pay for several Ubers or Lyfts.

Once you’re done with the bike, whether you used it for 15 minutes or six hours, you can return it to a docking station.

Once you see the green light turn on, the bike is locked, and you can continue on your way!

What Can You Rent From Citi Bike?

Technically, Citi Bike does not like to use the term ‘rent’, but instead, like to call their service ‘sharing’.

They even recommend NYC bike rental shops for people that want to keep a bike for an entire weekend to explore the city or locals that want to hold onto their bike for an entire week.

The main reason Citi Bike directs people to these bike rental companies is that they only offer bikes for adults.

If you need any sort of special, specific bike, like for a child under 16 years old, Citi Bike does not have these.

What they do offer are classic bicycles designed for most adults and eBikes.

eBikes are relatively new to the Citi Bike scene and offer a slightly different riding experience.


vector graphic showing a woman on a citi bike for top of how to use citi bike page

The Citi Bike classic bikes are standard bicycles with normal pedaling, hand brakes, and a kick-stand.

They do not have any fancy features but are designed for comfort and easy riding in an urban environment.

No matter your height or riding experience, the Citi Bike classic bicycles should be a breeze to use.


vector graphic showing a citi bike electric bike against a textured yellow background

eBikes are the future of bicycling.

You still have to pedal and steer like normal bicycling, but eBikes use pedal assist, so pedaling is much easier, especially when going uphill.

The always-on pedal assist gives you that extra support, so you don’t get too tired on your way to work or to your hot date.

Where Is Citi Bike Available?

Currently, Citi Bike is only available in New York and New Jersey, and they are only in well-populated areas like the city.

Citi Bike could potentially expand to more states and cities in the future as people grow to love it, but for now, only a New Yorker and visitors to the Big Apple get to enjoy this convenience.

Citi Bike is available in the following locations:

  • New York City
  • New Jersey

How to Sign Up for Citi Bike

vector graphic showing two people each riding a citi bike electric bike

Signing up for Citi Bike is super easy.

So you can successfully use Citi Bike, below are step-by-step instructions for you to follow when using the application and service for the first time.

Download the Citi Bike App

Go to the Android or Apple app store and download the Citi Bike app.

Create an Account

When you first open the app, you’ll be asked if you already have an account or if you need to create one.

If you have a Lyft app, you can connect the two accounts and use the same phone number, email, and payment information.

Share Your Location

Once you set up your account, you’ll need to share your location with the Citi Bike app.

Sharing your location allows the app to show you the closest Citi Bike NYC stations near you.

Select a Pricing Plan

Now that you’ve set up your account and shared your location, you’ll need to select an annual membership, a day pass, or a single ride.

Unlock a Bike

Once you select your option, you will be charged the specified amount and receive a QR code to unlock bikes or a member key to unlock bikes.

How to Use Citi Bike

vector graphic showing a woman on a citi bike for top of how to use citi bike page

Using Citi Bike is straightforward, and anyone can do it.

When you use the app, you will have to select one of the three options for using the bike, depending on how long you need it.

Below are step-by-step instructions for accessing a Citi Bike bike.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Open your app and select a single-ride, day pass, or annual membership.
  2. For day passes and single rides, you will immediately receive a QR code that will let you unlock a bike from a Citi Bike station. If you select the membership option, you will receive a QR code in addition to a key in the mail. The key usually takes about two weeks to arrive at your address, and then you can use it to unlock bikes without the app.
  3. Scan the QR code at the nearest docking station. The app will conveniently direct you to the closest Citi Bike station. Scan the code or insert the key to unlock a bike.
  4. When you unlock a bike, the light on the station will turn green, letting you know the bike is out for use. Now, you can lift the bike and unlock it from its dock.
  5. Hop on your bike and enjoy a ride through New York City!

Pro Tip: If you run into issues when using the service, reach out to Citi Bike customer service to get help.

How to Pay for Citi Bike

For people with annual memberships, all you need to do is insert your key, as your membership fee is charged monthly automatically.

vector graphic showing a man standing next to a citi bike with money coming out of it to illustrate the citi bike cost

If you have a day pass you have already paid for, scan the QR code again.

Most Citi Bike payments occur through the Citi Bike app, however, you can pay for single rides in-person at a docking station if you want.

Credit Card

When using a credit card at a Citi Bike station, tap the screen at the kiosk to wake up the system.

Then, select your ride and enter your credit card.

When your payment goes through successfully, a code will print out.

The code will allow you to unlock the bike and use it.

When doing this, you can select up to four bikes and have the option to choose a day pass or a single ride.

Debit Card

Using a debit card on the Citi Bike app or at a Citi Bike NYC docking station works the same way as using a credit card.

Wake up the kiosk, select your ride option, insert your card, and receive your printed code to unlock the bike.

It’s hassle-free!

How to Return a Citi Bike

When your ride is over, and your legs are tired, you’ll need to return your bicycle to one of the Citi Bike docking stations located around the city.

To ensure you return your bike properly, follow the step-by- instructions below.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Find the nearest docking station to you, using the Citi Bike app, and head in that direction.
  2. When you find a bike station with an empty slot, pull your bike up to the slot.
  3. Line up the triangle at the front of your bike with the triangular-shaped dock.
  4. Gently but firmly insert your bike into the slot and push down. Do not slam the bike as this can damage the bike or the dock, resulting in technical difficulties, and possibly damage charges to your account.
  5. Do not walk away until you see the green light on your bike’s slot turn on. If the light is not green, then, the bike has not been properly locked into place, so technically, your ride is ongoing. If you do not see the green light, remove the bike and try again.
  6. If the green light does not turn on, try a different empty slot or locate another docking station nearby.
  7. Once you get the green light and your bike is securely locked in place, you should be good to go. It’s wise to open your Citi Bike app and ensure your ride has ended so you won’t receive charges for minutes you were not riding.

Wrapping Up

Citi Bike NYC is much easier to use than one may think and affordable.

They have so many convenient pricing and plan options so all riders can enjoy the bikes how they want.

New Yorkers are lucky to have this service offered by Lyft, so they can help the environment while still getting where they need to go.

Rather than struggle getting your bicycle up your four-floor walk-up or chaining it outside your Air BnB, just borrow a bike from Citi Bike!

1 thought on “How to Use Citi Bike: Instructions For Unlocking, Riding, and Returning”

  1. Citi bike comes with a phone application that gives you access to its bike-sharing platform. With the use of an app, you can find bicycles in various Citi Bike stations. The app provides access to the payment method, purchase membership, and bike pass. Through the app, you enjoy the convenience of Citi Bike.


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