Riding an Electric Citi Bike Across the Brooklyn Bridge

Aug 21, 2018

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Some of us laud the bicycle’s dual purpose, as both a transportation and fitness tool. Others don’t. Or they simply don’t want to work up a sweat on the way to the office — and who can blame them for that.

Whatever your reason for wanting to cut back on the effort required to ride to work, Citi Bike’s got your back with a new pedal-assist electric bike.

Citi's new electric pedal-assist bike. Photo by Zach Honig.
Citi’s new electric pedal-assist bike. Photo by Zach Honig.

While these bikes are still few and far between, they’ve begun to pop up at Citi Bike stations in Manhattan and beyond. You can find one by pulling up the bike-share program’s app and looking for a station with a lightning bolt icon attached — tapping will reveal the number of available e-bikes, including the current charge level, if available.

After one failed attempt — racing to a dock only to find that someone beat me to the only electric bike — I managed to grab one at 8th and Lafayette, not far from TPG’s headquarters just north of Union Square.

Electric bicycles appear in the Citi Bike app.
Electric bicycles are clearly identified in the Citi Bike app.

It seemed that this particular station wasn’t equipped with charging, so the app couldn’t reveal the current power level. A tap of the battery button made it clear that my prized e-bike was running on fumes, but with no other options I still decided to give it a shot.

Electric bikes have a large, frame-mounted battery. Photo by Zach Honig.
Electric bikes have a large, frame-mounted battery. Photo by Zach Honig.

I felt the pedal-assist feature kick in right away — it was especially noticeable when I began pedaling from a full stop, or if I needed a burst of energy to make it through a yellow light. The bikes still top out at 18 miles per hour, so don’t expect to be passing delivery people with a full-power electric version. Still, the e-bike was far easier to ride uphill, like when I cruised up the Brooklyn Bridge with my Galaxy Note 9 mounted to the handlebars.

The electric bikes look similar to their lesser-equipped siblings — they’re painted blue, with the Citi logo, a black seat and handlebar and the new front-mounted basket that first popped up a few weeks back. A lightning bolt (electricity!) plus the word “electric” make a few appearances, too, and there’s a large battery mounted on the frame.

Electric bikes look similar to their traditional counterparts. Photo by Zach Honig.
Electric bikes look similar to their traditional counterparts. Photo by Zach Honig.

Next time, I’ll keep an eye out for a bike with a bit more juice — mine seemed to have some power, still, but another Citi Bike cyclist sped past me on the bridge, while clearly exerting far less effort. I imagine the experience will be even better with a full charge.

While I pay an annual fee for unlimited 45-minute rides, Citi Bike also sells single rides for $3, with up to 30 minutes of cruising, or you can get a full 24-hour pass (also with 30-minute rides) for 12 bucks. An annual membership like mine runs $169/year, but you can score a 10% discount by paying with a Citi card — I pay with Citi Prestige to get about $17 off of mine. Electric Citi Bikes don’t cost a penny extra — if you see one docked nearby, don’t hesitate to pick it up.

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