DAVE COLON: How Citi Bike Has Improved My Dating Life

Two-wheelin' Romeo, Dave Colon. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Two-wheelin' Romeo, Dave Colon. Photo: Julianne Cuba
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There’s a tweet I’ve thought about a lot recently (I have an exciting inner life). When Times technology reporter Farhad Manjoo asked if anything technology this decade was as life changing as the introduction of the smartphone, Citi Bike responded with a quote tweet of three waving emojis.

A little needy? Sure, but everyone who tweets has succumbed to attention grabs here and there. But more important, is it true that Citi Bike deserves recognition as a “tech” that changes lives? Probably, yeah.

Face it, the six-year-old bulky blue bikes are embedded deeply in the fabric of New York (even in the dead of winter the system averages over 30,000 rides per day). And although I use my own bike to get around almost everywhere, at some point this year, Citi Bike became a deeply embedded part of my life as well.

Specifically, it’s completely changed my dating behavior.

Hauling a bike over for a date with someone who doesn’t ride means if you go home together (if!), you take the subway, get a cab big enough for a bike or if you’re really willing to play with fire, leave your poor bike locked up outside the meeting place and then get it the next day. I once left my bike locked up outside Littlefield in favor of taking a taxi home with someone, and then agonized for a day and a half whether it would still be there when I came back for it.

So even though getting to a date was easy for me, it sometimes made the leaving part more complicated. But Citi Bike has solved that problem for me.

Now, yes, I know, that short, one-way trips are the point of Citi Bike: Take a ride either on a whim or for a short distance more quickly than the subway or bus could get you there. But as someone who also owned a bike that I rode everywhere, I’d been having some trouble seeing how bike share fit into my life. One night this spring though, things clicked: I had a date nowhere near any of the train lines I live near, but the destination was surrounded by Citi Bikes. I had no idea how the night would go, but using the Citi Bike eliminated the prospect of flagging down an SUV or walking 10 minutes to the subway, waiting for late-night weekend service and then walking 10 minutes home if things went well.

I went home alone that night, but at least came away with the realization that I’d made my life so much easier. Ride the bike, dock the bike, forget about it for the rest of the night. Since that first time, the decision to Citi Bike instead of taking my personal bike has worked, in the sense that it allowed me to make out with someone in the back seat of a cab. And the next day’s horrible, hungover walk of shame in the punishing sunlight? It’s been replaced with the horrible, hungover ride of pride in the punishing sunlight.

Citi Bike changed my behavior, and also rewired my brain. I don’t think I’d ever call myself an optimist. I’ll happily watch a Knicks game, for instance, but at this point, I haven’t expected them to win for four or five years. But now when I’m getting ready to go out, I’ve started to find a sense of optimism just looking at the Citi Bike map. A built-in one-way trip feels loaded with potential in a way that’s different from other transit options. Riding a Citi Bike to meet someone also means that if you do leave together, you avoid awkwardly fumbling with a bike lock while she waits. It’s traded it in for the low hum of electricity that exists while you both wait for a car or a train or a bus, and the singular anticipation of a first kiss while you wait.

To me, this was an incredible discovery, the kind of game-changer that the drive-in must have been for teenagers looking to get out from under the prying eyes of their 1950s parents. Or maybe it’s an even older, more primordial New York energy I’d tapped into. After all, as Evan Friss showed in his book On Bicycles: A 200-Year History Of Cycling In New York City, the heady combination of bikes and courtship has been a city staple since the 1890s, as seen in the legendary dating habits of 19th-century bike dandy Arthur P.S. Hyde.

After I came to my dating realization, I asked a few friends who have similar bike-heavy transportation patterns if they found themselves relying on the same thinking, trading a regular bike trip for Citi Bikes. None of them did, and I started getting the occasional weird look from them whenever I took a Citi Bike anywhere. My friend Kate started teasing my by calling me the Citi Bike Sleaze, but my friend Rebecca told me that she sometimes appreciates finding out someone met her on a Citi Bike.

“As someone who doesn’t have a bike, I actually appreciate when someone shows up to a date on a Citi Bike, especially if it’s a third or fourth date or something, because sometimes you want to go home with them, too,” she said. “And it shows that they’re thinking ahead or that they’re interested.”

But maybe I haven’t been trying to change my dating habits enough. I once told a fellow transit reporter about my penchant to bike share to dates despite owning a bike. He told that he hadn’t ever thought of doing it, but did tell me that he once took a date on her first New York City bike ride using a Citi Bike guest pass.

Conditioned to believe that everyone not currently riding a bike in the city is afraid to try it, I’ve never even thought to ask a date if she wanted to bike home at the end of the night. Given my new obsession with getting Bike Angel points, I do have passes to spare, and who am I to assume someone is automatically opposed to a new experience (the biking, not the going home with me!)? Not only that, but a friend of mine told me this summer that on a bike ride home with a suitor, the two of them stopped to make out in the bike lane.

Now that is the kind of outside the box thinking and disruption that the cycling world needs (minus the blocking the bike lane part!).

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