Less than 30 minutes into my first ride with Bike New Haven, the Elm City’s new 24/7 bike share, or short-term bike-rental program, two people had already approached me to ask how I liked it. Even as a newbie to the program, I already had my answer: “I love it!”
Designed for commuters and tourists alike, the program allows riders to explore the city in 45-minute increments astride lime-green bicycles. Starting at the Chapel and York street docking station, I made my way to nearby designated bike routes. I rode past streets and neighborhoods I have been to before, usually for one dining destination or another, but I saw these places from a new perspective.
It was a warm day and the city was alive with sights, sounds and smells. I peddled through the New Haven Green, past its three historic, 19th-century churches, the work of legendary architects Ithiel Town and Asher Benjamin. I noticed, for the very first time, the Amistad Memorial in front of New Haven’s City Hall, depicting Joseph Cinqué, leader of the revolt on the Spanish slave ship La Amistad.
Bike New Haven debuted in February with 17 stations, and by the time this story is published it is scheduled to have 30 stations. The program has quickly won the affection of both city visitors and residents. In its first three months of operation, more than 3,800 trips had been taken. Run by P3 Global Management (P3GM) in partnership with the city, the bike share is modeled on successful programs in places such as New York City and Hoboken, New Jersey, where P3GM runs a similar program to New Haven’s.
“We have seen a lot of excitement and I think part of that is because this is something that has been in the works for so long, and there’s already such an established bicycling community in New Haven and a decent amount of bicycle infrastructure,” says Carolyn Lusch, the program manager of Bike New Haven. “People are really ready for it.”
New riders need to download the Bike New Haven app and enter credit card info. Then they can purchase a single ride for $2.50, or an $8 day pass, $20 monthly pass or $90 annual pass. Student and senior annual passes are available for $50, and low-income residents can receive an annual pass for $15. Regardless of what pass you choose, each ride can only last 45 minutes — there’s a $2 charge for each additional 45 minutes you ride — but if you return a bike to a docking station you can immediately grab another bike. You use your phone to scan a barcode on the bike to unlock it, then when you’re done with your trip you use a barcode to lock the bike back up at a docking station. (Helmets are not part of the deal, so make sure to bring your own.)
For bikers new to the city, Lusch recommends they consult the bicycle map put out by Elm City Cycling. In addition to the area around the New Haven Green, she says other great spots to bike include East Rock and Edgewood parks, and the new several-mile-long, protected bike path on Long Wharf Drive, not far from Ikea and within striking distance of the famous taco trucks in the area.
During my ride I stayed close to the New Haven Green area. At one point I pedaled past the Egyptian Revival gateway to the Grove Street Cemetery, where the words “The Dead Shall Be Raised” are inscribed. I’d driven past this cemetery in the past, and even written about it before, but had never ventured under its striking stone entrance. Drawn by curiosity, I took my bike up the steps and into the cemetery, where I was surprised to learn biking was allowed. Zooming respectfully among the headstones, I realized, as odd as it sounds, there are few things quite as enjoyable as riding through a cemetery on a nice day.
Even so, my ride was not without hiccups. I unknowingly violated traffic laws by riding on the sidewalks for a few segments — cyclists in New Haven are supposed to stay on the road. There were also technical difficulties. To set up an account on the app, you are emailed a verification code, but there was a bit of a lag time between when the email was requested and when it was sent, which made the process more time consuming than necessary. Another glitch with the app occurred when I tried to end my second ride. For whatever reason, my phone’s GPS was not accurately reading my information and didn’t register I was at a docking station, therefore it wouldn’t let me return my bike. I solved this by biking to another nearby station, but I also could have called 203-800-2240, the program’s hotline for problems like this or mechanical issues with a bike.
Despite these minor inconveniences, after an hour-and-a-half ride on two different bicycles, my mind hadn’t changed about the new bike program. As I told those who approached me during my first couple of minutes on the bike: I’m a fan and can’t wait for my next ride.
For more information, call 203-800-2240 or go to bikenewhavenct.com.