Daily Editor Nadra Rahman is incapable of a lot of things: driving, swimming, and skating better than an untutored three-year-old are some of them. Add bike-riding to the list, as she makes a valiant effort to review the newly-launched bike sharing service Zagster, despite her inability to balance.
What do Wien, John Jay, and Lerner all have in common? Yes—they’re all sites of abject misery and desperation, but they are also hosts to newly-built stations for Zagster, a bike sharing service. Think of it as an off-brand Citibike for broke college students.
Surely this is something to be excited about: who hasn’t dreamed of whizzing through College Walk or Riverside Park with wind in their hair, and without having to worry about the terrifying bike-lock emails Public Safety periodically sends? Well, me. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I never learned how to ride a bike. It just never came up, and when I get a bike as a kid, it got stolen, which I took as a sign from the universe.
But college is all about embracing change, maturation, and inevitable humiliation, so I took Zagster’s launch on campus as an opportunity to better myself—by learning how to ride a bike. A Bwogger with a great love for bike-riding offered to teach me, and after purchasing a $5 24-hour pass (which came with one free hour) and checking out the bike using the accompanying app, we got to work in Riverside Park.
Let me be upfront: I did not learn how to ride a bike in an hour. Or really, in 45 minutes, since that’s how long it took us to realize I was hopeless. My teacher gave lots of pro cycling tips as he walked backwards and held onto my handlebars, but to little avail. Whenever he let go, I fell over. And someones even when he didn’t let go. We tried several other techniques after consulting Google, but they just didn’t take. It makes sense, since I was the kind of kid who would peddle backwards on the stationary bike in PE so my gym teacher would think I was exercising—you can’t escape those habits.
At some point, we realized I was a failure because the seat, even at its lowest, was too high for me. Frankly, at 5’0.5″, I’m used to things not working out for me because of my height, but it was a blow to realize I couldn’t learn how to ride a bike on a Zagster, when it would have been so convenient. To some comic effect, we tried to remedy the situation by removing the seat, garnering attention from dog walkers and old men with newspapers. It didn’t work out, as you can imagine, and we had a few moments of panic when we thought we had damaged the property.
(I assume that experienced but short bike riders should have no huge problems with the bike, since my status as a beginner with no balance doubled my difficulties.)
After giving up, I watched my teacher literally ride circles around me, beaming munificently and secure in his knowledge that he had at least one life skill under his belt. I got a last bit of fun too, as he pretty much acted as an sled dog for my bike as I peddled around (he got a decent full body work out in the process). When our app indicated time was running out, we returned the bike to Lerner, locked it in place, and ended our ride on the app. It was totally painless.
Even though I didn’t learn how to ride a bike, I still had a good time whizzing through Riverside Park with the wind in my hair, albeit with someone holding on to the handlebars the whole time. And I am assured that attempting to teach me was not an entirely tedious exercise. From this brief experience, I’d say biking has the potential to be fun and freeing, and Zagster is a solid option for anyone who wants to spend a few hours indulging themselves. The rates (daily, monthly, and annual subscriptions) are reasonable, Columbia students have unfettered access, and the whole process, from unlocking the bike to using the app, seems smooth. According to an expert (not me), the bikes are easy to ride. A caveat: I couldn’t download the app for my Android phone, but that might have been my own fault or connectivity issues; an iPhone was easily able to download the app.
My advice: check it out! And to those under 5’1″, you’ve been warned.
A 24 hour membership costs $5 and after one free hour, you must pay $3 an hour. A monthly membership is $8/month and after one free hour, you must pay $3/hour. An annual membership is $20/year, and after one free hour…you know the drill. One can pay up to $30 a ride.
Look Ma via Bwog Staff