You’ve seen Citi Bikes around New York, but have you seen the Citibiker? John Yaeger has been on a personal mission to track down the first 100 Citi Bikes (each bike has an ID number) and take a photo with all 100. The Citibiker documents his journey on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and so far he’s about three-quarters of the way done. Of course, the fewer Citi Bikes there are left, the harder they are to find among the thousands of Citi Bikes in New York.
Yaeger talked to Metro about his journey and the adventures he’s had along the way.
How long have you been doing this?
I started on June 9. The first bike I came across was Bike 85, so I thought, “I wonder how hard it would be to find the first 100.” On June 15, a girl from Italy stopped me and saw what I was doing and she said, “Oh, can I follow you? I live in Italy – how will I know how you do?” So it still took me some time to get online and really post anything but I started posting and like anyone else, I didn’t feel so photogenic. I was just taking photos because I thought it was just me and a bike. But people notice what you wear so I’ve been paying attention to that: I have different New York shirts and I wanted to wear things to promote New York. It hasn’t been easy. I think I now have 75 or 76 bikes of the 100 but it’s harder and harder to find the ones that I’m looking for.
Does Citi Bike know you’re doing this?
They actually sent me a letter back in the first week of August and they said, “Hey, we saw what you’re doing and thanks for being positive about the program.” It was a handwritten letter, too. They included a few coupons for week shares to share with other people, so that was nice.
Were you an avid fan of Citi Bike before you started tracking the bikes?
I heard about the program in early May. My office had just moved and I used to be able to walk but I had to find some other way to get to work. I saw a billboard that said “Citi Bike is coming – text for more info,” so I did and it said when it was first coming online, which was the first week of June. I tried it out a few times but when I got the key I started becoming a regular commuter. I didn’t really understand the whole concept until I started using it.
Do you have any funny stories from your hunt?
When it gets darker, it’s harder to see the numbers, but I will make a decision: Will I stop at a few docks? Will I look at people as they pass or do I go straight home? There have been times I’m headed up the Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge and someone will pass me and I have to turn around and catch up to them. I try to have a story behind each photo.
I was on Second Avenue when I spotted a guy riding Bike 24 and it took me more than two blocks to catch up to him. He kept biking because I think he thought I was just out for a run but when I caught up and explained to him what I was doing, he was like, “Oh, you’re doing a scavenger hunt – that’s so cool,” and I said, “Yeah, but you’re on the bike!” and then he finally got what I was trying to do and let me take the picture.
Bike 55 I still don’t have. I pulled up to Grand Central one morning to take the train out to Connecticut on it and I asked someone, “Oh, can you get a photo?” I was so excited to find 55 and I got on a train and looked at the photo and saw that the pedal was in front of the number, so you can’t see the number. I don’t count it, so I have to find it again.
You are really devoted to your mission.
I do triathlons. I did my 50th this past July and last year I did Ironman in New York City. Citi Biking really helps because it puts me on a bike for more time and lets me keep in shape. Citi Biking has played a role for me in that now, on a Saturday, I can go from Midtown to Brooklyn for lunch with a friend and it’s nothing. For me to get from Midtown to almost anywhere in Brooklyn, I want to say I can do it in 30 minutes or less. I’ve had a Citi Bike out for six-plus hours before on a Saturday – I just check in every 45 minutes.
What are you going to do to celebrate when you find all 100?
People always tell me I should make a poster. I could easily line all 100 photos up on a poster. There are definitely days I doubt it’s even possible to be done, but sometimes people tell me a bike they’ve seen that I haven’t gotten to yet and I’m just happy it’s out there. It keeps the challenge going. It would be sad in some ways if I found all 100, but I’ll make a new adventure then.
What have you enjoyed the most about your adventure?
I’ve definitely enjoyed meeting people. On June 19, there was a guy on St. Mark’s who almost seemed annoyed when I asked him to take a photo, and he asked me what I was doing. When I told him he was like, “Oh, that’s cool!” and we talked for 20 minuets and he told me about how he likes to ride and that for many years, he wanted his wife to ride with him and he finally convinced her. Just as he said that, his wife walked out and he said, “Honey, I have to introduce you to this man.” He went from being annoyed to, “Oh my god! I have to follow you!” People are engaging and encouraging. I did have a guy stop me on Avenue C last Saturday night and he said, “Hey I think I saw or heard about you – are you that guy?” And I laughed and said yeah.
The program has expanded my neighborhood so much. Now I’ll go get something to eat many blocks away from where I am. It’s made the city much more open.
Follow John Yaeger on Twitter: @citibiker
Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark