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CitiBikes Incite Cheers, Jeers, and Art; They Confuse Tourists

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Just like the hotly contested runup to Citi Bike's launch, its opening day was just as divisive. Some annual subscribers didn't get their keys; one bike was stolen during installation but recovered Monday morning. Thus far, New Yorkers have complained and even sued about what they deem the inconvenient and unsightly placement of the racks, which have been defaced, panned as advertisements, covered in trash and protest signs, gotten in the way of emergency medical personnel, and also occupied a space usually used for public art. But now that riders have actually hopped on, most of the reaction en masse has been cautiously positive.

Streetsblog rounded up all the headlines after day one, and Citi Bike's official stats are impressive, with 13,768 total miles logged. Some skeptics are demanding more (and more detailed) usage data as the program rolls on to determine its efficacy. Many people, though, are already avid fans. It does make sense that the early adopters are giving the perkiest thumbs-ups, rejoicing about not having to carry bikes to walk-up apartments, making east-west transit easier, and the convenience of one-way trips. But even enthusiasts can make simple mistakes, like running a red light, or not wearing a helmet, or ineffectively navigating traffic, so safety concerns still abound. Plus, tourists kept trying to unlock bikes, even though annual members are the only ones who can use the service until June 2, when it opens to the public.

The New York Post has stayed wildly pessimistic, putting on its cover yesterday a story about a Lower East Side bike shop owner who fears that CitiBikes will run him out of business. Contrast that, as Streetsblog did, with this week's New Yorker cover, showing a woman docking a recognizable set of blue wheels at a dock that faces the big windows of a gym full of hamster wheel-like indoor spinners. Illustrator Marcellus Hall explains: "I'm not one of those hard-core bike freaks; it's just a good way for me to get around in the city."

A nice de-mystifier, the WSJ has rolled out a nifty graphic with everything you need to know about the bike share program. Even Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon weighed in, proving optimistic on the whole. Streetsblog is running a series of portraits and profiles of bike share users called "Why I Ride" with the first interviewee commenting, "I take the train down to Grand Central, then take the 4/5 the rest of the way. It just gets pretty crowded in the morning, and it's stop-and-go on the way back in the evening. I think tomorrow I will try grabbing a bike at Grand Central and riding down to Wall Street. ... I'm never a first adopter of anything. I don't even own a smart phone."

Some hawk-eyed tweeters have noticed Citi Bike riders, probably novice city cyclists, not obeying traffic laws, Gothamist noted. But its honest reviewer was a fan: "You feel dorky riding this bike. It's heavy and steers a little slow, and the cruiser handlebars, combined with the single dropped tube make it feel like you're riding a 5th grade girl's bike... It's going to be a life-changer." Test-rider and Daily News reporter Oren Yaniv tried out a pair of wheels between from DoBro to Bed-Stuy, finding that it shortened his commute from 30 minutes to 12. He got whistles and a nod from a cop. Concluded Yaniv: "On its first day, Citi Bike earned itself a new customer."

No matter what the response, it was a landmark day for transportation in the city. Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan noted, according to the Times, that the city "had not added a major public transportation option since Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia secured a fleet of motor buses to replace electric trolleys." And most agree that all the hoopla and arguments are just more proof of what a big-ass deal this really is. "If bicycles also have the bike-Nazis, the rich, the working guy, the artists and the Hasidim all up in arms, it's a great chaotic New York moment," writes NYDN columnist Denis Hamill. Meanwhile, colleague Pete Donohue joined the fray, saying the negative comments have been a complete overreaction and an utter buzz-kill: "We've endured blizzards, blackouts, transit strikes and far worse, but the idea that up to 6,000 more people will be riding bicycles has generated a disproportionate amount of concern."

And that concern was nowhere more clearly manifested than on Twitter. Brooklyn Heights Blog did a great job of rounding up some of the best first-day tweets, with tons of happy campers and photos of almost-empty racks (meaning they were getting used = a good thing), but then quoting another gent who called 311 to complain because a Citi Biker almost ran over his baby stroller. In the world of 140-character blasts this morning, #CitiBike is the all the rage, most tweets lauding successful commutes and nearly empty racks?interspersed with Debbie Downer statements from a dubious minority. Here are some of our favorites.

· CitiBike Day One Recap [official]
· Today's Bike Share Headlines [Streetsblog]
· Out for a First Spin: City's Bike Share Program Begins [NYT]
· Citi Bike Is ALIVE: NYC Reacts To The Most Important Bike Share Of All Time [Gothamist]
· Graphic: What New Yorkers Need to Know about New Bike Share [WSJ]
· Citi Bike share program hits the road with excitement, confusion and even one bike theft [NYDN]
· Hop On a Citi Bike and Visit 26 Historic Downtown Buildings [Curbed]
· All CitiBike coverage [Curbed]