There have been multitudes of passionate debates since the Citibike program launched. Some believe it’s ugly and dangerous. Others love its convenience and positive environmental impact.
Sometime ago, my boss told me: “Don’t come to me with a problem unless you have a solution to go with it.”
With that, here’s my list of enhancements to the Citibike program.
Problem: Bike racks with too many or too few bikes
Solution: Valet parking
So far, my biggest problem with the program has been showing up to a station of empty bikes. Similarly inconvenient is arriving at a station that has no empty docks.
Enter valet parking. For a nominal cost, why not have a valet at the city’s few hundred bike racks. The busy stations may need a team of two or three.
Valets can sprint, or jog, to nearby stations replenishing bikes as needed. If there’s no room, they’ll take the bike off your hands.
Keeping track of everyone’s keys could get tricky, but we’re creating jobs in the process.
Problem: Your friends catch you riding a bike
Solution: Free masks
At the start of the program, most non-daredevils were hoping that there would be free helmets included with the bike (forget about lice for a moment).
The reality is that when riding a Citibike, the biggest danger is not hitting your head but being spotted by a friend. The mask system would guarantee you the confidence to ride your Citibike anywhere in the city.
The fixed gear is pretty frustrating as well. Not because you can’t go fast, but because you’re getting passed by EVERYONE riding a real bike. Now you’re able to mask your humiliation… literally.
Problem: The bikes are ugly
Another big complaint has been that the Citibikes are ugly. I agree, but we need Citibank’s investment to subsidize the cost of the program.
The solution is simple. End the Citibank monopoly and create some competition. I recommend Chase, which employs a more subtle blue in its logo.
As competition heats up, this can mean only good things for the bikers. Free pens. Free checking accounts. Free US Open tickets. Low quality mortgage-backed securities.
Problem: The bikes are costing tax payers money
People find that the program is also a financial burden on the city. All of these bikes are creating more work for NYC and ultimately costing taxpayers more money, regardless of whether they use the program or not.
The city can issue E-ZPass enabled bike helmets (or masks) to all riders. This will ensure that the city collects revenue without creating gridlock while also tricking bike riders into wearing helmets (or masks).
Since Citibikes can’t go over 5mph, E-ZPass readers will easily capture the signal from the bike helments.
The E-ZPass system has some flaws that need fixing. For one, you can’t use it in the state of Florida. This is a huge problem for all New Yorkers visiting their grandparents in Boca.
Problem: Slow adoption of the program
Solution: Rename Citifield
So far the program has experienced slow adoption. The partnership with Citibank has alienated everyone in the Bronx. Not because there are no Citibikes uptown, but because no self-respecting Yankee fan wants to support the bank that subsidizes the stadium of their cross-town rivals.
This can be solved in two simple steps:
- Rename Citifield to Pizza Hut Stadium after their famous switch- hitting catcher.
- Move Shake Shack to Yankee stadium.
Problem: Bikes are dangerous for pedestrians
In a recent survey, over 90% of New Yorkers revealed their most common nightmare is getting run over by a bike (dethroning the 10 year reign of bed bugs).
Enter Citiblades, New York City’s rollerblade share program. Sure getting hit by someone on rollerblades hurts, but not as much as a 45 pound bicycle.
Blade stations take up much less space on the street and rollerblades are much less likely to be stolen. (Because who the hell wants a pair of rollerblades?)
To help with adoption, purchasers of the annual membership will receive a free pair of cutoff jorts.
Citiblade designated lanes include cones that allow members to practice their weaving.
Assuming we can adopt the changes I’ve outlined above, I have a ton of confidence in the Citibike program. Bloomberg, I hope you’re listening.
Update: New Ideas
CitiPlows — Affix plows on the front of Citibikes to help clear the roads and sidewalks in exchange for discounted membership. Salt dispensers can also be attached to the backs of bikes helping save large amounts of money for the sanitation department.