CitiBike is the Best Commuting Deal

For those in NYC, a CitiBike membership is one of those few value-adds.

There are pros and cons to any type of city service. CitiBike’s are big and clunky, they’re slow to ride, but they’re everywhere. They’re accessible and can be fun for a ride around town on a great day.

I can’t recommend CitiBike highly enough, but I want to ensure you see my arguments for and against CitiBike subscriptions before you make a judgement.

CitiBike Discount Codes

As with almost everything, I don’t believe in paying full price. As a matter of fact, I think that just as in real-estate, the initial price is the most important factor ensuring you have the best deal.

Your employer could possibly bed involved in one of these programs. Mine is and provided me with 15% off the first year of membership.

NYC ID Card, which is a free service, provides a CitiBike discount code for 15% off your first year of membership as well.

What discounts are hard to find is those that last past the first year. I did about 4 hours of research online and was unable to find a membership program that provided such a discount. If there is one, please let me know in the comments so I can update this post.

There are additionally low-income programs that can help you get a CitiBike membership for a very reasonable price for just $5 per month.

Once you nail down a good starting price, it’s easy to break even or benefit from the membership quickly.

CitiBike Benefits

Just like Mr. Money Moustache has gone on to say how little value owning a car can be as it is a money-pit for your finances, so can a regular bike be in NYC.

Opportunity Costs to Owning a Bike:

  • Bike parts get stolen. This happens a lot in NYC. Seats are gone, tires are gone, cellphone holders, repair kit bags, you name it. Gone. Faster than you can blink.
  • Entire bikes get stolen. Obviously, this is the most expensive part of owning a bike in the city, and while this doesn’t happen to everyone, the nicer your bike investment, the more appealing it is to would-be thieves to take your bike and re-sell it.
  • Flats happen. They cost about $2 to fix but you need to know what you’re doing and be ready to handle one at almost any location throughout the city.
  • Tune ups are needed. These can run $90 in NYC. Can you cut costs here and do it yourself? Absolutely, but it’s going to require time to learn how to do it propery as well as some kind of investment in time or money in the tools to do one.
  • You’ll probably need a pump unless there is a bike shop nearby providing free air – there are many of these in Manhattan but not in all boroughs
  • Helmet discounts

CitiBike Let-Downs

Firstly, the bikes are built like tanks to withstand the variable and often terrible road conditions in NYC. They’re essentially made to cruise through even the hardest hit roles by potholes or other

The bikes are slow. With weight comes less power from your legs being transferred into speed. It’s hard to count this one and it really can impact you. For a while last summer, I went between my racing bike and CitiBike when commuting to work. My racing bike flies in the city. I was able to get to the office in under 13 minutes on that bike but CitiBike ended up taking me around 20 minutes door to door. Partially because I had to both find a bike and the bike speed itself.

We’ve only talked about normal CitiBike experiences so far. What we haven’t talked about are those days when you go to look for a CitiBike in a half mile of you and every single bike is being used and your local racks are empty. This happens to me in my neighborhood if I don’t leave the apartment in time as CitiBikes are really popular.

We also haven’t covered what happens when you have an issue during your ride. Ever have your breaks stop working for no reason? What about those other issues you know how to instantly fix on your main bike? CitiBike’s internal settings are purposely hard to change and adjust if the bike is having issues. And there is absolutely nothing worse than walking to the CitiBike station, finding the last bike there, taking 5 or six pedals, and finding out the bike is a complete lemon.

Bike Rider Benefits

For all the pros and cons, I still think CitiBike is a deal for almost any rider. Some math we didn’t talk about here is not having a bike v. CitiBike but comparing the benefits of biking in the city compared to normal MTA fares. With the right discount on your membership and good weather, you can break even on a yearly CitiBike investment in a single month of use.

An unlimited card on the MTA costs upwards of $1500/yr. CitiBike memberships shouldn’t cost you more than $150 for the first year and $180 after that. All you need is two solid months cycling with one to smash your commuting costs.

Additionally, many employers will allow you to add CitiBike membership costs to your tax-free reimbursement program on transportation, allowing you to use pre-tax money to discount your bike membership even further than the upfront membership costs.

Saving on cabs and Ubers is another added benefit. Sometimes you’re in some part of the city where the walking home isn’t an option and without a CitiBike membership, you’d be taking an Uber or a cab. However, all it takes is a few instances of jumping on a CitiBike for you to see the benefit of using a CitiBike.

Summary

CitiBike is a great service. I think any able-bodied person interested in biking, even casually around the city, should 100% signup for a CitiBike membership. There are reasons you should keep an eye on subscriptions you don’t use however, so keep stock of how long you use the service over a year-long period and reassess the cost once you’ve got some data on your usage.

You have no idea how many times it’s saved me in a pinch when I’ve been commuting or I’ve been somewhere in the city where I would have otherwise taken a cab. That savings can add up quickly enough to pay off your CitiBike membership in under a month each year.