Citi Bike’s top riders, including man with over 12K trips, honored for fifth anniversary

Citi Bike will celebrate its fifth anniversary by honoring its most dedicated riders in Prospect Park on Sunday, May 27, 2018.
Citi Bike will celebrate its fifth anniversary by honoring its most dedicated riders in Prospect Park on Sunday, May 27, 2018. Photo Credit: Hester Street/Grain Collective

Shawneladee Cole couldn’t tell you what kind of bike she has stuffed in her apartment.

“It’s silver,” she says.

Cole barely ever rode it and didn’t care much for biking until Citi Bike landed on her Clinton Hill block in 2013. She gave it a try. She bought a parachute bag for grocery runs. Now she’s logged 3,419 trips, the most of any woman in Brooklyn.

“I didn’t bike at all — and now Citi Bike is my main form of transportation,” says Cole, 47, a therapist and professor at Hunter College. “I was still shocked to find out the news. When Citi Bike was coming here, I didn’t think anything of it. But then, when I realized it was right on my corner, I thought — oh, this might be useful.”

Cole will be one of several Citi Bike “top riders” honored at the bike share’s five-year anniversary celebration on Sunday in Prospect Park — some 58 million trips after its first launch in the city.

Dog walker and Citi Bike faithful Joe Miller will also be taking home the award as the top rider, having logged an astounding 12,596 trips since he started riding in the spring of 2014. Miller has averaged 43 Citi Bike rides per day since September, when he joined Citi Bike’s rider rebalancing program called Bike Angels.

The 33-year-old East Village resident and long-distance runner had become obsessed with earning reward points for the rebalancing program and said he had sacrificed sleep and a social life in order to become a top point earner.

Miller would bike to each of his dog-owning clients, run a few miles with the dog, bike to the next client and repeat the process. Depending on how many dogs needed walking, he could run between 6 and 20 miles a day.

“Biking keeps my joints loose and muscles warm between runs,” he says. “It ended up fitting really perfectly into my job.”

But commuting would only cover a half-dozen trips or so each. Miller would kill any free time he had unlocking bikes and moving them between docks to help balance the system.

“I became more and more of a master over the system and started learning their algorithms and knowing where bikes would need to go to get the most points. I got in too deep,” Miller says.

And he’d do it all year long — “I mean, most dogs love running in the snow,” he says — though he has since become more at peace with the leader board.

“I still do Bike Angels,” he says, “but I’ve developed a much more harmonious relationship with it.”

Tara Mihajlovic, 18, a Columbia University student from midtown, will be honored as a top teenage rider, notching 1,719 trips, mostly for exercise. She typically rides every day, sometimes twice a day, and logs around 30 miles on a longer ride.

“I used to do mountain biking and started with Citi Bike mainly for fun at the beginning to ride around the city, before I started using it for exercise and do rounds in Central Park,” she says. “That you don’t need the hassle of storage for it kind of drew me in.”

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for Motivate, Citi Bike’s operators, marvels at the riders’ dedication to the largest bike share network in the nation. Part of what has made Citi Bike a success is that, as bike share has boomed to more than 70,000 daily rides, citywide cycling deaths and injuries have remained relatively constant — a far cry from certain doomsday headlines that foresaw carnage on the streets with all the new bikers.

“Five years ago, the only people who biked in New York City were people who owned a bike — and now you have people who are giving it a try all the time,” Wood says. “We’ve lowered the barrier to entry for riding in the city in general.

“I think the naysayers have really been proven wrong,” she continues. “We’ve seen that those doomsday predictions did not come true and in fact the opposite is true: We’ve had over 60 million riders biking in New York City and that it’s actually a really safe activity.”

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