January 3, 2014

Citibiking in the Snow: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

I may not have made a New Year’s resolution, but I did set a goal for myself over my Christmas break: to take the subway as little as possible, and take Citibike instead. So far in two weeks of being home in NYC, I’ve taken the subway only once (when I went out in a party dress on New Year’s Eve), and cabs only twice (once home from NYE, and once when I needed to get a whole ton of boxes and moving supplies home from Uhaul). At $100 (or $50 if you caught the Gilt City deal like I did) for a yearlong membership that gives you unlimited rides, it’s great for both my body and my wallet!

New Year's Eve 2014
After I managed to semi-successfully do my hair by myself, I was NOT going to risk the wind on Citibike! (Also, trying to get around Times Square would have been a nightmare.)

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to discover just how easy it is to bike around town. I had a bike in the city before, but the convenience of being able to leave a bike at one station and then pick up a bike at another station makes errands really easy. When I’m wearing a dress/skirt, I usually just throw on capris/leggings underneath to make my outfit Citibike-friendly (although admittedly not at all fashionable – sorry, Blake), which really isn’t all that hard. And I love getting to go exactly where I want rather than having to walk over to the subway, take the subway, and then walk over to my destination. It’s like the convenience of a cab, but totally free (since the membership fee is a sunk cost). I have definitely been getting out and about in the city a lot more since buying my Citibike membership; I only wish they had started the program years ago!

But this morning, I came dangerously close to breaking my Citibike resolution and taking the subway or a cab instead. Nor’easter Hercules swept through Manhattan and left quite a bit of snowfall in his wake! Normally, any snowfall in NYC doesn’t stick. (My theory, stolen from Stacey of the Babysitters’ Club, is that the ground is too warm because of everything that happens underneath the streets.) This time, though, I headed outside to find a foot of unplowed snow on my street!

Hercules' Snowfall
Since when does Manhattan ever look like this when it’s already 8am and everyone’s been up for hours??

It did occur to me to head back upstairs and get my snowshoes (a present from my Dad that I have not yet used, though I think they will serve me well in Colorado). However, I instead decided to just proceed with my plan – stopping at Pick a Bagel with my best friend for breakfast, then getting my Citibike and heading downtown to Body by Simone for a dance class. How bad could it be?

Well, I did make it down to my dance class successfully (and it was an awesome class; I can’t wait to go back for another). However, Adam suggested that I blog about my experience with “Citibike: EXTREME EDITION” – and I decided it could be fun. Here’s what I learned on the journey:

1. Wear really warm mittens, not gloves. I made the mistake of wearing fleece gloves and my fingers were numb and painful within 10 minutes. I ended up pulling all my fingers into the palm part of the glove where they could huddle for warmth. But how did I steer, you ask? Well, that brings me to…

2. Don’t steer. That is to say, don’t attempt to turn if your bike is in snow. Going straight is pretty much your only option, because any attempt to change the direction of the Citibike wheel while in snow will not be successful. You have been warned.

3. Don’t brake either. As with steering, attempting to use the brakes causes your bike to skid out. And that is a nice segue into…

4. Keep one foot off the pedals while going downhill. You won’t want to be going very fast in the snow anyway, and since you can’t brake, you need to be going slowly enough that you can stop by simply hopping off the bike and putting your feet down. Keeping one foot off the pedals permanently allows you not only some form of braking, but also allows you to catch yourself when (not if) you start to fall.

5. If you find a snowplow, it’s time to tailgate. Although snowplows are notoriously slow, chances are that you will be going slower than them. But fight the good fight to catch up! Riding behind a snowplow is priceless because the layer of snow on the ground is a lot thinner and more packed down, which gives you better traction.

6. Finally, wear snowpants. Not because you’ll get snowy (I didn’t), but because they’ll keep you warm. Besides, when (as I said already, that’s when, not if) you fall, they provide great cushioning!

So should you take Citibike when it’s really snowy? I was honestly fine with it, but given tips #2 and #3, I would only recommend it for short trips (mine was 3 miles) that don’t involve a lot of turns or much traffic.

Snowy NYC
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor ice, nor snow, will keep me from getting to my cardio!

4 thoughts on “Citibiking in the Snow: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”

  1. Taking the citibikes is such a great goal to have. When I was visiting the city to cheer for the marathon, I kept seeing the bikes everywhere and wondered how it all worked (what you pay etc). I think it is a fabulous concept and I hope more people are like you and choose to take advantage of them. Its a healthy habit to get into!
    Nice work lady, and btw you rocked that black dress!

    1. Thanks, Laura! I hope more cities follow New York’s (and London’s) lead to add bike sharing programs – they are awesome!

    1. Bike sharing is AWESOME – so much better than regular biking! I just love the convenience of being able to do one-way rides instead of having to worry about roundtrips.

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