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Citibike Hack

Tonight's tip is the least related to litigation support that I have posted thus far, but I was so thrilled to figure it out this morning when I began my day that I want to share it. New York, like many cities, has a bike share program that allows people to rent a bike for 30-45 minutes and ride it between different docking station. There's one outside my building and I use it to ride to the nearest subway stop each morning. I know from my travels that identical bicycles are used for the bike share programs in Montreal and Chicago.

I've used Citibikes to get around New York City since they were introduced in 2013, hundreds and hundreds of times. The bikes are undocked using a blue, rectangular plastic key with the bar code on the right side. The Citibike log is on the opposite time. Every time I have undocked a bike, I insert the key in the slot next to the bike with the bar code facing to the right, so that the logo on the opposite site faces up. Usually the bike unlocks with no trouble, but occasionally even when your account is active you'll get a red light instead of a green light, and the bike will not unlock. Nearly every Citibike user must know the disappointment of coming to a docking station that has just one or two bikes left and finding that they cannot be undocked. If you come across them and the red light next to a Citibike's slot is already lit, you're probably out of luck. [Indeed I would recommend not taking these bikes even if you can undock them, because I have experienced trouble re-docking them elsewhere.]

Sometimes, however, a non-red lighted Citibke will not undock even though it appears as though it's in perfect working order. If you come across such a bike, you may not be out of luck. Trying inserting the key upside down and insert it with the Citibike logo on the left and the bar code on the right. This hack can successfully undock a bike that gives you a red light and remains docked after you insert the key the 'correct' way. See the proof in this video:

As you can see, I tried inserting the key with the bar code on the right and leaving it in until a light illuminated, and also tried a quick dip method. No dice. But when I flipped the key, I got the green light I was hoping for. Now in effect I have a reserved bike share at the station outside my apartment! I won't miss out on a ride if I sleep late after a long night at the office!

You can't do litigation support if you can't get to the office.

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