At Citi Bike, there is a small team of people that work behind the scenes, all hours of the day, making repairs and responding to system emergencies. They have a high sense of urgency to keep the bike stations and docks functioning at full capacity. The Station Tech Department, called internally “Station Techs” or “Techs,” consists of only 18 people that perform highly skilled work in all weather conditions. They take pride in what they do to make the trip across town from station to station as seamless as possible for our riders.
If you’re a regular Citi Bike rider, you are familiar with the ‘buh-beep!’ and green light that indicates when a bike is successfully released or returned. On occasion, you may have also noticed a yellow light or an internal grinding noise at the stations.
What’s going on in those situations? The Station Techs know, and are on the case! They make sure every Citi Bike ride starts and ends without issue. While Bike Mechanics attend to actual Citi Bikes, Station Technicians are tasked with zeroing in on the issues regarding the kiosks and docks where the bikes live throughout the day.
The lights and sounds indicate that there’s a technical issue, either with the dock, the bike, or the maze of cables, wires, and electronics that keep the Citi Bike stations running. The Techs have the skills to navigate that maze, pinpoint the exact issue, and solve it on the spot.
The Techs ensure that over 750 station kiosks and over 23,000 docks are operational for the avid cyclist as well as the casual rider. They are responsible for maintaining all aspects of the system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These responsibilities include maintaining station functionality and connectivity to the Citi Bike app, inspecting and repairing locking mechanisms, and managing the self-sustaining solar power system contained within each station.
During expansion, the technicians were out in the field in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, introducing more people and potential riders to Citi Bike. Curious residents always had a lot of questions and weren’t afraid to ask, sometimes mid-installation. “I would get asked questions at least once a day,” says Jordan, a Tier-2 Technician from the LES who has been with Citi Bike for almost three years. “When people are complimenting Citi Bike, at the end of the day, it makes the work worthwhile.”
Jordan has a background in construction and worked as a driver for Citi Bike before becoming a Station Technician. When asked about how he likes working at Citi Bike, he mentioned he feels a sense of camaraderie he has never felt at any other job. “It takes a lot of time learning the different components [of a station],” Jordan said, “but I feel I learn a lot through everyone here as a whole. Everybody needs to be on the same page. Teamwork is essential. We all have each other’s back.”
Shameeka, another Station Tech of two years, echoed Jordan’s sentiments regarding community within the workplace. New challenges may occur, but the technicians can count on each other to lend a hand when a problem occurs. According to Shameeka, the most common issue with docks during expansion was broken motors. Motors, the locking mechanism that holds the bike in place once docked, get damaged if a bike is slammed into them. “The older systems may have needed more of a push to lock the bikes,” she says, “but you no longer need to, and in fact, now it causes damage to the docks.”
As a former resident of Ravenswood Houses in Astoria, Shameeka was particularly excited for Citi Bike’s expansion into Queens. “Expansion means more stations, which means more work for us,” she said. “It keeps us on our toes.” Unlike many of the Station Techs, Shameeka works overnight and admits there is a certain level of serenity during those hours. “My favorite station is Whitehall Plaza right by South Street Seaport,” she fondly reminisces, “seeing the sunrise on the waterfront is pretty cool.”
As a Citi Bike member always on the go, it is easy to take for granted the extensive knowledge and hard work that goes into making a bike share system operate all hours of the day. Station Technicians are visiting stations across our service area, replacing hardware at one station, then on to another to check on the batteries, then off to somewhere else to fix a broken dock.
So the next time you are renting a bike, think of the Station Tech that is working outside everyday to make sure that your experience is the best it can be. Next time you use the Citi Bike app to find the station nearest the Brooklyn Museum, think of the tech who activated all the docks. Next time you dock a bike by Marcus Garvey Park, please remember to be gentle. And finally, next time you see a Station Tech out in the field, say hello and thank you. Who knows, you might even run into Jordan or Shameeka!