Bicycle culture

Newyorkerne er vilde med deres nye bycykler!

Happy Spring, everyone. I would first like to apologize for my long (now entire-Winter) hiatus. I promise that I have a great deal of content that I’ve been saving up to share and that I’m going to be back in full force this Season.

venlig hilsen,

Eric

____

A few months ago a Danish friend made me aware of the following article:

Newyorkerne er vilde med deres nye bycykler

Happy Danes do Citibike (photo courtesy: poitiken.dk)

Having marked it planning on sharing it later, I’m disappointed to also share two unfortunate changes that should also be reported…though the article briefly expresses a Danish sense of pleasant surprise at the success of New York’s bicycle sharing scheme, we in NYC have recently learned that the Citibike program is sadly in financial trouble and strangely our new Mayor has rejected several influxes of capital that could save it. The understanding is that the system will continue to operate just fine and attempt to change (and increase) costs to consumers to balance its budget. Across the “pond,” Copenhagen’s own bike sharing scheme was axed by the City Government last year, for lack of funding and, seemingly, interest. The above article mentions some things that were to be implemented in Copenhagen, that were noticed in NYC, but that of course never came to fruition.

I’m not too concerned about “the future of cycling” in New York. I have and will continue to convey the positive impact that the Citibike program has had on the City and how things have already changed for the better, even over the past few years prior. What’s striking here, though, is the stark contrast in bicycle cultures between New York City and Copenhagen that produced, seemingly, the same result for bike share schemes. I’ve written previously on how bike sharing is sort of like a “gateway drug” (to make an ugly comparison); if people are introduced to urban cycling in an easy, fun way, they might increase their use of bikes around town and possibly buy one themselves to use even more. The present situation begs the question, though, as to whether or not, regardless of outcome, these schemes are sustainable, inasmuch as I think that they should be/have been propped up. In Copenhagen, a bicycle culture has existed for far longer than the bike sharing scheme. The bike share program was put in place to perhaps make it even easier for marginalized groups (even tourists!) to cycle around the City. In New York, the target demographic was more broad, with the goal being that everyone should have the chance to easily ride around and see how wonderful it is to cycle in NYC. But is it possible that they have or are beginning to exhaust their usefulness? And that this might not necessarily be a bad thing?

Of course, I cannot speak for a real Copenhagener, but I doubt many natives will mourn the loss of the bike share program that many probably knew little about. Everyone has their own bicycle in Copenhagen. I hope that New York’s Citibike program does last, though, even if only for long enough such that people are finally comfortable cycling around town. If these systems in general are not sustainable in the long-term, their impact has to be huge and immediate, which fortunately I see Citibike as having had thus far.

The many faces of Citibike

Citibike Bros, Fifth Avenue

Citibike Lovebirds, Fifth Avenue

Citibike Tourists, Park Avenue

Map of Current Citibike Stations (courtesy citibike.com)

As the Citibike program continues to take the City by storm, our biking culture has become much more diverse in its demographic, its core customer. Much as you would see a grandmother from Aalborg next to a hipster who lives in Nyhavn, now we New Yorkers are seeing many different types of people swiping their cards and hoisting themselves onto our blue metal tanks.

Though Manhattan is typically rife with tourists on bicycles, they’re mostly hidden in Central Park, where they can rent their vehicles and take oh-so-pleasant-that-runners-want-to-maul-them tours of our fair garden. With the ubiquity of the Citibikes around Manhattan and Brooklyn (see above), it provides exactly what Citibike’s planners wanted: a truly new way to explore the City of New York for the Citibike Tourist (Italian, Australian, or otherwise). And much more than 59th – 110th Streets.

The Citibike Lovebirds. Ever the romantic, given Brooklyn, Queens, or Lower Manhattan resident takes his girlfriend around town, showing off his knowledge of the built environment and its nuances. When did he move here? Last month. But his new girlfriend (who doesn’t know that yet) is enamored of the tidbits he’s able to spew out, after having spent ten years reading Emphemeral New York and dreaming about moving here after college.

Finally, the Citibike Bros. It’s safe to say that commuter cycling in New York and throughout most of the US is a less-than glamorous activity. I may use the term “bro” loosely, but he and his buddies may be found at 2nd Avenue in Midtown or the Lower East Side on a given evening (pick your poison). With the advent of this program, it seems at least to me that the slicked-back-hair toting, fitted-button-down-shirt wearing entry-level financier is less opposed to the ease of this mode of transportation. I mean, it was this easy when they were at Cornell, Penn, and Harvard, so why not shake things up a bit in Manhattan. And of course using the beloved program and not having to lock up one’s own vehicle means that one never has to say…dude where’s my bike?

 

Spinning class on Citibikes

Photo courtesy: Sara Krulwich, NYT

Metropolitan Diary: Spinning on a rent-a-bike

I simply wanted to share this quick, hilarious slice of life in New York: impromptu spinning classes being given on the Citibikes of our cycle sharing program! I don’t know if Bycykler København is quite as happening…

Sharing for safer streets

Photo courtesy: Brian Thomas for the NYT

Bike Sharing Can Mean Safer Biking

I’ve often alluded to how bike sharing will be a “gateway drug” for us in America in terms of introducing urban commuter cycling to potential cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers alike, also making them more aware of their surroundings (i.e. more bikes on the road) and making the roads safer for cyclists as a result. I wanted to share the above piece which dives even deeper into the issues of bike safety in American cities (and it has some cool pictures too).

In Denmark the bike share program was merely a feather in the cap of a very prodigious, cycle-friendly society. I’m not alone in believing that it could have much more significant ramifications in NYC and other large, American metropoli.

The Vandals finally sacked Rome…err…my bike rack…but this time they were thwarted!

Kryptonite NYC "Fahgettaboudit" Lock (Photo courtesy: Kryptonite)

 

ABUS U-lock (Photo courtesy: ABUS)

 

Very original photos, as you can see. So this wasn’t the first time that one of my bikes has been vandalized but it was the most notable. As you may recall from earlier posts, I have three bikes with two parked in a public rack on the street a few steps from my home. The street is heavily trafficked, and right on a large Park…which probably makes it safer, yet, for my wheels out there. Like a good New Yorker, I use both of the locks above; the first (yes, it’s actually called a “fahgettaboudit” lock), to chain the frame to the rack, and the second to lock the frame also to the back wheel alone. Finally, the seat is also tethered to the frame. It is an almost-foolproof combination, and absolutely necessary if these vehicles are left outside 24/7/365.

One morning I arrived at my hybrid with a piece of GUM on the seat…a seeming effrontery which I would discover was a response to the attempted theft of half of my bike! The seat was detached from the frame…but remember the tethering above? They were unable to remove it, after the fact. They then tried to remove the entire front wheel by detaching it completely from the frame. Another only-partial success as the “faghettaboudit” lock kept the frame tight enough to the rack. In the end, they took the top of my bell, some grip material, and parts from my seat and the front wheel attachment. It only took a quick trip to the bike shop to get back in gear.

All that I would remark about the Danish experience is that I parked my bike for months outside on a main street with nothing more than a small cable lock affixing the front wheel to a pole. It still lives there to this day, with my friend in Frederiksberg. Danes are well-aware that bike theft (or borrowing…) is rampant throughout the Country, but…things are a bit “tougher” here on the streets of the Big Apple.