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Could CitiBike Transform New York City?

Written on May 31, 2013

Earlier this week, I hopped on my first CitiBike — New York’s brand new, long-awaited bike-sharing program—and embarked on my cross-town trek to work. My fellow cyclists immediately took notice of this odd, clunky interloper in their midst. The first remark occurred half a block from my apartment. “Nice bike, dude,” scoffed a mustachioed young man as he zipped past on a vintage fixed-gear. A block later, a young couple gave me and my bike a smile and thumbs-up. At a red light, an older lady pulled up alongside me on a matching blue CitiBike and, as if we were old friends, began gushing with approval for the system’s convenience. In a city where everyone is too busy to notice anything, everyone seemed to be noticing the bike share.

As I arrived at my destination and docked the bike alongside a row of other CitiBikes, lined up identically like blue clones, it dawned on me: that if successful, the bike share program could dramatically alter the look of what is one of the world’s most filmed cities.

The NYC bike-share program, America’s largest, currently offers 6,000 bicycles at 330 stations located in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. (The program will be expanded to 10,000 bikes and 600 stations if all goes according to plan.) It is the city’s first new major public transportation system in over seventy-five years. Creative professionals might now wonder: will blue blurs of passing bikers one day become as ubiquitous as the yellow of speeding taxis?

How might script writers and directors use these vehicles to tell stories of the way we interact and get around? It would have been a different movie if John McClane had to pedal his slow, heavy CitiBike to save the day in 1995’s Die Hard with a Vengeance. What innovative ways might stunt teams make the bikes seem faster and more aerodynamic? Will talent agencies find themselves casting characters such as “tourist weaving absentmindedly through scary traffic,” or “bike courier begrudgingly sharing road with said tourist?”. Will stylists one day be sourcing bike-safe wardrobe options where perhaps even this snazzy item will become the norm? It’s a fun thought experiment.

It’s too early to tell if the CitiBike program will succeed. If it does, it will become a transportation icon that changes the way the world sees the city and the way those of us in the creative industries record it.