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Bike Story
cap, captain miss america
I have been getting really, really into Citibiking. I got my key a week ago this past Friday, and I have ridden Friday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (I was sick Wednesday), and today (I rode my own bike over the weekend). It's pretty much amazing and my new favorite thing! You can just...get a bike, any time you want.

I've modified my habits in such a way to make this easier: changed from a purse to a backpack, carry my helmet with me everywhere, and so on. There are so many places in the city where it's quicker to bike than to wait for a subway.

The best part is that it's increasing my confidence as a cyclist and my confidence in my body in general. I have done things that I didn't think I could do. Cycle from Chelsea over the Brooklyn Bridge? Check. Cycle from QUEENS to the Brooklyn Bridge? Heck yes. I did the latter on my own bike and learned a lot from that. Especially that my bike is not really the right size for me and is probably a large part of why I haven't been especially enthused about distance biking before. I've ridden in places I would never have ridden before because getting my bike TO those places to start riding was too difficult.

Anyway, apart from it making me think a lot about how we carry ourselves (literally and figuratively) and how we transport ourselves, I had this thought today. This is copy/pasted from an email I sent to a friend who is also heavily into Citibike:

At lunch today I Citibiked down to a Thai place about ten blocks from my office. I docked my bike (#1015), went to the drugstore to drop off the prescription for my new (red!) inhaler because my lungs have decided to rebel like Bostonians being taxed for tea, walked across the street to the Thai place, ordered myself some tofu and noodles, got my food, picked up my prescription, and went back to the bike station-- which was completely empty, except for one broken bike. (I'm also digging the developing language of "backward seat means broken bike" I'm seeing around the city) I went around the corner and about two blocks to the next station, pulled out a bike...and saw it was #1015 again!

And then I was thinking about what I said on Friday night about bike reviews, which was very much something that would be half in jest, and then I was thinking about stories about objects that travel from person to person, like The Red Violin or The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and the idea of tracking a single object from place to place and documenting the stories of things that happen to it or to the people in possession of it. I mean, if I hadn't glanced at the numbers, I would never have realized I was on the same bike again.

So then I got back to the office, ate some noodles, and looked at the data on my account, to see if I could find out what bike I'd ridden for previous trips, and saw that the data that Citibike provides doesn't seem to include bike numbers, just trip numbers. We've got stories of docks and trips, but not the bikes themselves, which is vastly more interesting to me, like tagged animals in the wild.

So I'm thinking about that this afternoon, and that I'm going to keep track of my bike numbers from now on, and document trips by bike number somehow. Still percolating. Wondering how to make it a bigger thing than just me. Because I want to know the stories of the people who've been on the bikes I'm riding, whether they rode that bike to get their hair cut or to buy a new set of headphones or to go on a blind date, if an old white lady was terrified of them or a tourist asked where they could get one.

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next step we get you a good NYC commuter bike of your very own!

Yessss I want one so hard. We are going to go do a field trip to buy me a bike.

I find the tracking objects thing very interesting myself. Like that thing with the dollar bills, where's George I think? Or how objects are passed through families. Or how the use of an object changes through the years or how one book passes hands and effects people.

So, maybe you could try to get something started with Citibike about tracking bike numbers? I think it would be something other people would be interested in!

I actually originally mentioned Where's George in this email! And then changed it because I am in love with Edward Tulane.

That's exactly what I'm planning on doing. I'm wondering if Tumblr tagging is enough to be a good way to organize it.

We have a bike-sharing program (Nice Ride) in Minneapolis & St. Paul, and last year one of the local news sites put together a "day in the life" map of the system. A new dot shows up each time a bike is checked out and follows it through its route. It also tracks density. It would be cool to do this with Citibike!

Ooooh awesome. Yeah, they're doing a lot that tracks the docks, but not that tracks the bikes themselves.

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