New York has admitted that other cities might have the right idea. This came with the start of the Citibike program, a shared bike systems that allows members to pick up a bike at any one of hundreds of locations throughout the city and return the bike when they are finished. I’ve seen similar programs used successfully in several cities that I have visited all over the world including Paris, London, Zurich, Munich and Dublin. Most of these programs only require a credit or debt card and no type of membership. You just put your card in at one kioske and at a kioske at the point of pick up, and when you return the bike to the same or different kiosks, your time is recorded and you are charged accordingly.
This is not the case in NY. Citibikes require a membership at $95 per year, which give you unlimited 45-min rides, then a charge based on time of use. There are a couple of special rates for 24hr rental and 7-day rental, but the average price comes up to about $9.00 per hour.
Does this mean the end of bike rental companies like the ones in Central Park? I don’t think so. These companies start at about $15 per hour. If you do the math, you would have to ride about 6.33hrs, in 45-min increments, to make the membership pay for itself. If you’re a visitor, do you really think you’re going to spend a day on a Citibike? And if you live here, you can buy a bike for the cost of the membership fee plus a little more.
Is it worth it? Well, maybe, if you are cycling enthusiast and you just happen to be without your bike. But then again, I’m not sure a real cycling enthusiast would enjoy riding these bikes. They are not exactly the kind of bikes I see “enthusiasts” weaving in and out of traffic on, so these bikes might be a little too clunky for a true cyclist.
There are people who like the idea of using a bike to commute to work, but don’t have the space to store a bike.
For me, someone who usually prefers moving through the city on two feet rather than two wheels, I will probably pass. I’m not sure it’s worth the membership fee for the occasional cruse.
What about you?