Tag Archives: new york city

10 thoughts on why CitiBike is a game changer for NYC

Williamsburg is only 12 minutes away.The CitiBike bike share program is a complete game changer for NYC, in the right direction. I’m a couple of months late to the conversation (having been out of town all summer), but here are my observations/predictions after 48 hours on a bike:

1) CitiBike is like having hundreds of new subway stops.

CitiBike opens up the city in exciting and unexpected ways. I could imagine far reaching consequences such as increasing commerce in previously less accessible neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Fort Green, and Clinton Hill and reducing the premium paid for proximity to the subway (at least during summer months). I’ve never had a more enjoyable and productive day running errands as I did yesterday.

2) Specifically, ubiquitous cycling revolutionizes crosstown travel.

FInally. Living in the West Village, I rarely traveled east of broadway to eat. Last night, I agreed to meet my friend for dinner in Alphabet City, and was there in 10 minutes.

3) CitiBike is a great deal!

I am going to save a couple hundred $$$s a year by not buying an unlimited metrocard during the warm months. This phenomenon will affect MTA revenues. Look for price hikes within the year.

4) Someone will die, soon.

Many more will will be hurt. It’s an inevitable and unfortunate consequence of throwing thousands of (helmet-less!) people that haven’t ridden bikes since they were in middle school into the melee that is New York City traffic.

Every single person I know with a bike in NYC has been hit at least once. The is the main reason that I never picked up a bike…until now…the on-demand transportation is just too alluring. I only hope that the collision that convinces me to get a helmet will be minor.

5) The City needs to rethink the laws and enforcement around cycling.

The current paradigm of non-enforcement of traffic laws w/r/t cyclists (e.g. allowing them to run red lights and/or go the wrong way down one way streets) is not going to scale, leading to further injuries.

It’s a tricky problem though. Despite being irritated every time I saw some hapless blue shirt and kahkis breaking the law and thus “ruining it” for everyone, I found myself doing the same by the end of the day.

Why? The current traffic laws, designed for pedestrians and vehicles, don’t make sense for cyclists. On a bike it feels much safer to “run” a light in order to get out ahead where traffic can clearly see you as opposed to wait wedged between impatient and inattentive motorists.

We probably need “hybrid” laws tapered to the unique strengths and weaknesses of cyclists. Right now, the only people observing the law are weed delivery boys.

6) CitiBike provides a great opportunity for entrepreneurs.

CitiBike will create a new market for accessories, services, and apps. I’m sure someone at 4SQ is already working on a checkin integration and I’d like my citbike app to start my 45 minute countdown as soon as I unlock a bike. If I had the money, I would definitely shell out for this scarf/helmet.

7) Someone at Citigroup deserves a promotion.

What amazing marketing. I can’t believe that I, and everyone else, are calling these things “citibikes.” If someone at CitiGroup sees this, I would love to chat. I have some ideas about how to strengthen your digital program (e.g. you should open your API ASAP).

8) The winter is going to be rough.

All sorts of unforseen complications, injuries, and costs are going to come out of the woodwork.

9) You will learn to hate traffic in a whole new way.

Contrary to what the haters complaining about the “all the lost parking spaces” think, normal New Yorkers are going become even more fed-up with rush hour gridlock. It’s not fun on a bike either. Hopefully this will catalyze support for more bicycle friendly infrastructure (e.g. dedicated lanes, bumpers etc).

10) “People overestimate change in the short term…”

“…but underestimate it in the long term.” Most of these predictions aren’t going to play out over night but if were I a betting man, I would put my chips down on the side of this program making a big, positive change on NYC. I can’t wait.

 

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Lifehack: Free* Wireless at Starbucks

Starbucks logo
Image via Wikipedia

Given that times  are tough, I thought I might pass along a little lifehack I learned while working on my Fulbright project out of the cafe’s of NYC: How to get Free Wireless at Starbucks.

I put the Lifehack upfront for everyone’s benefit.  The story about Job and Identity in America and my regular interactions with people minutes after they’ve lost their jobs, the real point of this post, is below.

Lifehack:

1) Go to Starbucks and and put $10 on a Starbucks card.

2) Go online and register yourself with Starbucks and AT&T.

3) Spend a cent at least once a month to receive two consecutive hours of internet free every day*.

*I seem to have no limit on my wi-fi usage so this deal might be even better than advertised.  Here’s  eHow‘s instructions.

Story:

Having worked out of various NYC cafes for much of the past year, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of the recession on the city’s workforce.  When I came to NYC from Milano for a couple of weeks this fall, the nicest Manhattan cafes were nearly empty at 11am (Brooklyn cafes have quite a few stroller-bearing regulars).  Nowadays, it’s a melee for the seat sandwiched between the Starbucks bathroom and the homeless guy that lives across from it.  Don’t even think about going to the nice places anymore, any establishment with half a business person at the helm has long ago disabled wi-fi and put locks on the power outlets.

I have frequently been the first person that people talk to after they’ve been escorted  from their office.   I can pick ’em out from a block away through Starbuck’s big glass windows.   The progression of events looks something like this:

1) Armed with their 3 year old mac and wearing a pant suit for the last time for at least a few months, they stumble into their local Starbucks around 11am.

2) Shocked that the place is not empty, they get into line for their $5 latte.  By the time they reach the counter, they realize for the first time that the cafe  au lait is 60% cheaper.   They purchase the latter and meander into the center of the Bucks, pondering their new found frugality.

3) After being pushed to and fro by the steady flow of traffic emanating from the door, they move to my corner of the store in search of a safer vantage point from which to pick off a table.  I tell them that there is enough room for two at my table for six.  They smile sheepishly and thank me for my generosity.  They’ve never spoken to anyone besides their co-workers in a Starbucks.

4) They sit down, open up their mac, and ask me if i have wireless.  I explain the situation (instructions below*).  They frown, look down at their empty blackberry, and open up their resume.

Crazy.  Less than an hour before these people were walking out of HR shielding their eyes from the pity of remaining coworkers, sneaking back through the kitchen to their desk, futily trying to download their personal contacts, gathering their lucites, and sneaking back through the kitchen and out of the office where they spent the past four years doing whatever they did.

I applaud the go get ’em-ness of going straight into the job search, but man, did anyone ever consider that it might be nice, healthy even, to take a few minutes just to think? To take a walk by the water.  To call your mom.  To sit in the park on this sunny day.  Wow.

This post was not meant to poke fun at or ridicule people affected by the downturn, only to tell their story.  The difference between Job and Identity in America is virtually indistinguishable and recent events have a lot of people soul searching.  If you see someone that fits the bill that I just described, give them a pat on the back and tell them it’s going to be OK.  It will be.

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New York City: Bring a plan

New York is a dangerous place for people without a plan.  I knew this, disregarded it, and got lost as was to be expected.

The City. People come here from all over the world to “make it big” in Art, Music, Money and more.  Twenty-four year olds and forty-two year olds alike work their asses off  in the City as managing directors, junior ad executives, or baristas/actors, all chasing different shades of the same brass ring.  Sweat and dreams,  failure and success, make New York feel like the center of universe as soon as you pop out of the subway.  I love it.

Problem is, that in the race for the rings, many of us run like rats in a maze, forgetting that simple pleasures such as having breakfast with our grandparents, climbing something tall, and seeing the sun for more than 30 minutes a day are even options.  Why?  Among other reasons, it’s much easier to prioritize one activity above all others when faced by the infinite possibilities the City offers us.  To do otherwise is to risk paralysis by analysis.

The collective tunnel vision of its residents makes NYC a particularly dangerous place to be without a plan. All of these driven people are likely to run you over if you don’t know where you are going.  Even if you are fleet footed, you’ll probably go mad trying to convince your peers to stop and smell the roses.  Even if you are nimble and stoic, you’ll still probably go broke.  Dodging, Processing, Surviving…  In NYC, treading water is exhausting.   It’s easier just to start swimming.  Many chose to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, in order to feel like part of the club.

I feel that incredible pressure but continued to be paralyzed in the big light of the big city.  Should I get a Ph.D in business? Should I get a VC job? Should I take a stab at one of my 50 business ideas? Can I even do any of those things? After all, if this life is the only shot I’ve got, I don’t want to make any rash decisions.

That’s why I moved home to put a nail in this Fulbright project and to clear my head for the next chapter.  The respite has treated me well and I can honestly say I’m getting closer to making the right move. When it happens, it’s going to be big. I can’t wait to get back to the city.

Here’s a link to a Tim O’Reilly article that I find inspiring:
http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/01/work-on-stuff-that-matters-fir.html