Photo by Dmitry Gudkov
George Hahn on NYC's Citi Bike
She’s No Centerfold, but She’s Definitely Playmate of the Year
After a shaken mixture of praise, celebration, bitching, and moaning, served straight up with a false start twist, Citi Bike, New York’s bike share system, officially launched on Memorial Day. Judging by the amount of cobalt blue bikes I see on the streets and by the empty station in front of my building each morning, I have to say that New Yorkers are taking to the bikes pretty well so far.
Aside from the signature Citibank blue, the bike itself isn’t necessarily a head turner. As far as seductive designs go, Citi Bike is no centerfold. Perhaps, though, the unsexy design was a deliberate choice as a deterrent to thieves. The bikes are extremely efficient and practical, the system works well, and it gets you where you want to go with ease. That said, the rather pedestrian looks of these bikes are all the more reason to bring some flair to the bike share affair.
I find it thrilling to see suited-up businessmen riding Citi Bikes, both on the streets and on the Hudson River Park bike path, as they ride to and from work or meetings. An apprehension I’ve heard from some men about commuter bicycling is that it’s not conducive to wearing a suit. Even on a regular men’s bike, I can attest that it’s not a concern, although I do understand the fear of stressing or ripping a crotch seam when doing a Bob Fosse fan-kick when mounting. Thankfully, with the step through frame design, the Citi Bike doesn’t present the fan-kick/ crotch-rip problem. We can just step through.
One unfortunate side effect of men on regular bicycles, particularly men in suits or nice trousers, is the pant-leg tucked into a sock chain-grease-avoidance technique. Or having it rolled up. Or tied with a reflective strap. Not good. Chainguards, like those found on every Citi Bike, are an unsung asset on smart city bicycles. In fact, I’ve never really heard a good reason why chainguards aren’t standard on more bikes, except that their absence qualities them as an “extra” that manufacturers and bike shops can add for a fee. As an advocate and owner of bicycles with chainguards, I love that I can ride worry-free in any trousers, from denim, to wool, to linen. On Citi Bikes men can let their pant legs remain open, riding without looking like golf caddies in 1950s Scotland.
As much as I’ve lauded Citi Bike’s plain looks, it is the little touches that make each bike endearing. A dynamo powers front and rear lights, a front basket with a bungee cord secures your goods, and fenders keep you dry. Citi Bike is a savvy way to get around the city without cramping your style. Since bike share launched, I’ve taken it out several times, in all modes of dress, from suit and tie to casual. It is, bar none, the most carefree ticket around town.
As I’ve said, Citi Bike is no centerfold, but in terms of a hot idea for making NYC a more livable city, I think Citi Bike is a perfect fit for Playmate of the Year.
George Hahn is the creator, writer, and crash test dummy of his own website, a journal for men who aren’t millionaires but who like to look good and live well. georgehahn.com