I think this is the third net neutrality explainer I’ve shared, but it’s also great.
225 people shop in slow motion in a Manhattan Home Depot for five minutes and then freeze in place for five minutes, surprising and delighting the employees and customers in the store. Remastered video with new footage!
Monday was the first anniversary of New York City’s bike share program, Citi Bike. There has been lots of ink spilled about the program on it’s first birthday. This Mashable piece sums up the facts really well. In short, Citi Bike is wildly popular, with over 100,000 annual members. It’s also in financial trouble due to damage and delays caused by hurricane Sandy and some poor management by it’s parent company. The program is unique in that it isn’t given any public funds, though this NY Times piece has a great argument for why the government should subsidize it, as they do all other forms of public transportation.
When the program started it was met with extreme opposition and skepticism by journalists, particularly The Post and The Wall Street Journal. They predicted theft, vandalism, accidents, deaths, and chaos. None of that came to pass. Turns out New Yorkers could figure out how to ride a bike in the city. It’s not that scary. Thanks to years of work by Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, a pretty good network of protected bike lanes covers key routes.
I wrote about my first day using the system a year ago, and today I thought I’d write about my personal experience as a daily user over the first year.
I immediately became Citi Bike’s biggest fan. If you ran into me in June of last year, chances are that by the end of our conversation you thought I worked in marketing for the company. All I wanted to do was talk to other cyclists about the best routes from point A to point B. I work from home and don’t have a commute, so I had to invent reasons to use it every day. I said yes to improv shows and meetings I might have otherwise turned down because I was excited to bike there.
My wife Cody and I biked home from a wedding in Turtle Bay and then biked to and from the reception in the Flatiron later that night. We took over an hour to bike from our apartment in Chelsea to Park Slope for a party one Saturday night, stopping to dock and reset our time limit on the way. We biked to Fort Greene for a friend’s backyard BBQ, an invitation we might have turned down to avoid a long subway ride on a sunny day. I biked so much that my knees starting hurting (an ailment solved by raising my seat a couple of inches and sticking to 2nd gear unless going down hill.)
After living near the UCB Theatre for ten years, I moved one mile north to Hell’s Kitchen in July. Lucky for me, there’s a Citi Bike rack very close to my apartment and one directly in front of the theatre. My three minute walk turned into a nine minute bike ride. No big deal. I can make it to the other UCB in the East Village in about a half hour, which is about how long I used to wait for the F train on my way home at the end of the night.
Cycling is often the fastest option to get from one place to another in Manhattan, particularly when going cross town. I routinely blow by cars stuck in standstill traffic on side streets. I always laugh when a friend is late to dinner due to being “stuck in a cab.” Yes, of course you are; you’ve chosen the slowest way to get somewhere in the city at 7 PM. Cabs also tend to make me nauseous, so I’m happy to have them mostly out of my life, except for late rainy nights.
I biked through a few heat waves in July and August, and while it wasn’t fun showing up to shows covered in sweat, I learned to pack an extra shirt when needed. It’s not like you don’t sweat on subway platforms or city sidewalks. There is no escape from NYC’s humidity in the summer.
We went to Washington D.C. over Labor Day weekend and I was delighted to find that their bike share program used the exact same bikes, painted red. I was far from home, but I still had my bike. It enabled us to cover way more ground as tourists then we could have on foot.
My parents visited New York a few weeks later, and we gave them the day pass coupons that came with our membership. We all biked the West Side Greenway together, seeing parts of the city they’d never seen. In many ways I’ve become a tourist in my own city, visiting corners outside of my routine where the subway doesn’t stop.
In late September, Cody got pregnant. One of the first things she said was, “Does this mean I can’t Citi Bike?” Her doctor told her it was OK to keep riding for a couple of months, but eventually she had to stop. Giving up biking has been almost as hard on her as giving up alcohol. Almost.
As the weather got cooler it took me a few weeks to figure out how to dress for a bike ride (one layer less than you’d need on foot.) I asked for a balaclava and a pair of good gloves for Christmas, and I managed to bike almost the entire winter. I even biked over to Carnegie Hall to see Neil Young on one of the Polar Vortex evenings. It wasn’t fun, but it was faster than walking through the extreme cold. I biked through the snow a few times, though the big storms put me out of commission along with everyone else.
The spring had me biking just for the sake of biking once again. Lately I’ve been biking through Central Park just for exercise. I realized I could do the entire six mile loop in about a half hour, safely under my 45 minute time limit. Why get on an elliptical at the gym when you can bike through the world’s greatest park? I imagine it would be more fun on a nicer bike, but honestly I like my blue tank. I don’t know enough about bikes to realize what I’m missing.
In my first year I took 583 trips on Citi Bike. Factoring in that I was out of town 10 weeks of the year, that puts my daily average at about 2 rides. At $2.50 a ride, that would be $1457.50 in subway fare (or $1344 if I bought a monthly pass.) Citi Bike has helped me get places faster, encouraged me to visit places I don’t normally visit, kept me healthy, saved me money, and kept me happy.
It’s been a great year.
Hopefully the program will expand to new neighborhoods soon so more people can join the party. Although it’s still a great way to get from point to point in Manhattan no matter where you live, and many of my outer-borough friends are avid users. I’m personally looking forward to exploring more neighborhoods on my big blue bike once they expand. Bloomberg was clever to pull this off without using public funds, but if taxpayer money is needed to bring this to all five boroughs, then I say it’s money well spent.
Happy Birthday Citi Bike, and cheers to NYC’s best public policy decision since the smoking ban!
I love crowds and teamwork so much.
Another great video about Net Neutrality. Cable companies are evil. Tell the FCC that broadband companies should be classified as common carriers by submitting here.
(video by Vihart)
C.P.G. Grey is the best at explaining complicated things. Here’s a very clear explanation of net neutrality and why it’s so important.
I just donated to the SuperPAC to end SuperPACs. You should too. Let’s get money out of politics (by getting money to hero Lawrence Lessig!)
There are a couple times in my life when I have felt like I’ve just leapt off a tall building. On the whole, I’ve decided, I’ve not had this feeling often enough.
So today, I leap again — with certainly the biggest chance to fail of anything I’ve ever done.
Today we launch the MAYDAY…
From the FAQ:
What kind of “PAC” is the Mayday PAC?
The Mayday PAC is a SuperPAC. That means it spends the money it collects independently of any political campaign. But the ultimate aim of this SuperPAC is to end the dominance of SuperPACs in our elections.
We want fundamental reform that will change the way elections are funded. The first step towards that goal is to elect a Congress that will enact fundamental reform. Once we have that Congress, we will then consider the constitutional reform that will secure fundamental reform.
Help fund a SuperPAC to help kill SuperPACs.
Lawrence Lessig is a straight shooter for real, so think about giving him some money to do some good for American politics.