High Line in New York City. Bike to get here. At night.
High Line in New York City. Bike to get here. At night.

Wrapping my badge in its lanyard, I back into the revolving door of the midtown office building and simultaneously stuff my identity into my bag. I exit onto the street, zipping closed and breathing the first crisp, fresh air since morning. Upper 30s for the second week in a row after an unusually balmy anomaly midweek. I take a right instead of the customary left.

Chrysler, Vanderbilt, Empire State Building towers at night

The Citibike rack is unusual tonight for two reasons. One, it has been relocated from the plaza in front of Grand Central. I haven’t yet discovered what they are building or renovating where the racks used to be. There’s a No. 1 Tacos at the southeast corner of the plaza and two subway entrances on the east. To the west, the raised Park Avenue overpass, where Will Smith battled zombies in a scary “I am Legend” scene, borders the plaza. And of course, to the north, Grand Central itself. Is it Grand Central Terminal or Grand Central Station? That depends which train tracks you are referring to! The commuter lines entering from the northern suburbs of Connecticut and New York end their journey in the Terminal. But if you are taking the 4, 5, 6, or 7, or the Shuttle to Times Square, you will get off at the Station. Same geography, though.

The other unusual thing about the bike rack this evening is… there are bicycles! Around this time of night, the hungry pedalers form a spontaneous queue, watching out for incoming two-wheeled headlights. A single incoming bike, like a sizzling drop on a hot griddle, hardly stays docked for more than a few seconds between return and rental. Wait times are usually under five minutes because of the huge turn-over, but tonight, wait time is not an issue, as more than 50 bicycles await travelers, docked in the alternative location. Does an extra walking block from the transit hub so drastically reduce the accessibility to leave so many two-wheelers unused? The question won’t mete out more than a moment’s thought this evening.

Manhattan at night. Even with snow on the ground, still a viable biking adventure.
Manhattan at night. Even with snow on the ground, still a viable biking adventure.
New York City full moon at night
New York City full moon at night

The Citibike app is mostly well-behaved these days. If it releases a bike for you that you can’t physically liberate from the dock, it no longer leaves you in limbo. This happened once to me, where the app thought I had the bike in my possession, but the bike I had tried to pull out was securely locked in its place. Maybe it was the mechanism that wouldn’t let me wrangle it out during the 10 second buzz of the aperture. I should just choose a different mechanism on the dock and try again with a different bike, right? Nope. If the app thinks you’ve checked out the first bike, it won’t let you unlock a second bike. Frantic help messages through the app turned out to be attended to in unreal time, at least many hours after the situation had on its own resolved itself in some way. Maybe the frantic messages had some effect in the end, as I have since never again dealt with the same issue.

I am a fastidious reporter of bike problems, by the way. Once docked at the end of a trip, the app gives you an opportunity to report issues, and I make full use to let Bike Central know of any issue. If you’re out there, Citibike, thanks for listening.

I bring one disinfecting wipe with me to sanitize the hand-grips, brake handles, and seat handle. The bag goes into the front basket, held down by a bungee cord. The seat gets adjusted to 9.5, which is also my shoe size.

To be continued…