Maybe you’ve noticed some seats turned backward at Citi Bike stations around town. By now, you’re probably aware that this is not an attempt at preserving manhood through simulation of noseless saddles. Rather, a turned bike share saddle warns potential users that a bike has become inoperable because of a flat tire, gear slippage, a wayward pedal or another mechanical problem.
This signal reportedly originated with earlier bike share systems, notably in the days before stations became equipped with maintenance buttons to lock down broken bikes. But the practice is encouraged here, as well.
“It is something that’s done in other cities,” NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan recently told WNYC. “It’s part of the lore that’s getting passed along. We think it’s helpful when New Yorkers help us manage the system better…and if New Yorkers can help pinpoint the problem, so much the better.”
Above: A broken pedal spotted at at Greenwich Village Citi Bike station.
Here’s how this bit of etiquette benefits your fellow users, and what you can do to be a good bike share citizen:
Spot check: Turning the saddle around so that the nose points to the rear of the bike, in addition to pushing the maintenance button, not only serves as a favor to other users, but also helps Citi Bike crews more quickly spot bikes in need of service.
Above: To lock down a broken bike, dock it, then press the white wrench on top of the dock. The red light will illuminate.
What not to do: Don’t lock down bikes that have superficial damage. Graffiti or scratches on the frame don’t interfere with operation. Taking a usable bike out of service means one less for a potential rider.
Go the distance: The bikes nearest to kiosks tend to be in heaviest rotation, and broken bikes may accumulate there, too. This can sometimes give people who approach a false reading, along the lines of: Whoops, this station must be out of service! You’ll do others a favor, and save them a few steps, by docking a bike in need of repair at the far end of a station opposite the kiosk.
When it comes to bike share courtesy, one good turn (of a saddle) deserves another.