Dear PoPville – CaBi Etiquette?

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Dear PoPville,

What is the proper etiquette when two people are approaching a CaBi stand and only one bike is left? Yesterday I was walking up to the dock at New York and 15th, helmet and CaBi key in hand, when a woman walking in the opposite direction suddenly broke into a trot and rushed to the one remaining bicycle (no helmet and no obvious CaBi key until she whipped the key out as she approached the rack). It’s not that I really minded having to walk a block and half to 14th & H to find a bike. Perhaps I would be less irked if she’d had the proper protective head gear or had her CaBi key out and was obviously heading to the rack, it just seemed rude for her to suddenly grab the bike and ride off (not even a snarky “oh, looks like I got the last bike!” which at least I could have laughed at).”

Anyone else encounter a bikeshare standoff like this? It seems like it’s just gotta be one of those situations where whoever gets there first wins – it could involve feints and/or sprinting – so if there’s only one bike left I’d start double timing it. But I agree with you – proper etiquette – should at least acknowledge the less fortunate rider.

124 Comment

  • If the universe has a sense of justice/humor, she was dockblocked at her destination.

    • hilarious

    • “Dockblock” – genius.

      I actually was once riding up to a station with only one spot left, and I saw someone else approaching as well, but he was on his cell phone, oblivious, so I blew past him, quickly dockblocked him and went to work. When he pulled up, he realized what had happened and swore.

      I felt sort of bad, but not that bad since he was on his phone and not paying attention.

      • em

        That was totally fair. You both have giant red bikes that give away the fact that you’re headed for the last available dock.

        Also, -1000 for talking on his cellphone while riding a bike.

  • As a safety professional and CaBi user myself, I say the person with the helmet ALWAYS wins.

    • As someone who enjoys the fact that we live in goddamn America, I say until they make a law you can not wear a helmet all you damn please and if someone tries to use that as an excuse to take the bike you got to first, you ALWAYS laugh in their face as you ride away.

    • As a person who prefers riding motorcycles sans helmet…all I can says is…”wimps”.

      • Luckily there are still a few states that let you legally be a moron.

        • that made you feel witty, huh?

          • Native American JD’s comment was the stupid attempt to be witty.

            To continue, I also prefer driving a car without a seatbelt and as a general rule never use carseats for my children either. I find they prefer to not be buckled in. I also think smoke detectors really ruin the flow of the room.

            I’ve got a good friend that deals with traumatic brain injuries. Amazing how many are due to motorcyle accidents for people who “prefer to ride without a helmet.” But go right on ahead and joke about it. Freedom rules until you have to pay the medical costs.

          • so you didn’t feel witty? shame.

      • Don’t forget to sign your organ donor card before you head out the door. You will receive appreciation that you never found in life.

    • Not sold on this helmut debate. if they are so great why dont we make car driver’s wear helmuts as well? Sure, I’ll throw on my helmut when I take my own bike out. But when I’m out and about on the town, I’m not carrying around a helmut, just to take a CaBi bike 12 blocks.

  • This once happened to me and the other woman who walked up looked very frantic and stressed, so I let her take it. I really hope there’s some good karma in the world for you and me.

  • “It’s not that I really minded having to walk a block and half to 14th & H to find a bike.”

    Methinks you did – hence your posting of this complaint.

    Agreed that there should have been some acknowledgment of taking the last bike, but not surprised that there wasn’t. Everyone is so improtant these days. No time to acknowledge the little people 🙂

    • brilliant. Also, I’m sorry, what’s the deal with the helmet? Why does that entitle you to the last bike? In my opinion, it doesn’t. It’s not a law that one has to wear a helmet in DC and Capital Bikeshare recommends the use of a helmet, it does not require one. So you lost me there. Next time, I suggest you trot a little faster.

    • The OP is just upset that he got beat by a girl.

  • For the love of all things reasonable… proper cabi etiquette? Lame

    • It should be the same as taxi etiquette. This is LAMEEEEE.

    • A true “first world DC” problem indeed. I work in SE and the closest CaBi to my office is 3 blocks from the one closest to my house.

      • So, you attended the cabi meetings and proposed sites near your work/home?


        A true “DC” problem indeed.

        • I did make a recommendation last time they put in a request for new locations, pointing out that it would be at the end of a bike lane and in an area without good metro access and lots of office buildings. Keeping my fingers crossed!

      • we live in dc, therefore talk about issues in dc. get with the first world program.

  • I think the OP is inventing rules retroactively to justify being bummed that they didn’t get the bike. “There must be a clearly defined system with universally accepted protocols — including, but not limited to, proper display of bike keys and possession of Snell-certified protective equipment, an official review of which will determine who is legally entitled to use the bicycle — that this person violated to screw me out of a bike!”

    OR…they are less considerate of others than you are. Here, in real life, this really does happen. All the time, in fact. Walking through doors, hailing a cab, and grazing at a buffet that is running out of yummy crabcakes all introduce the risk that someone else is going to think of themselves first. Most times, they will not acknowledge their inconsiderate actions, perhaps even out of guilt.

    I suggest you learn to take such things in stride. Doing so isn’t surrendering to the bad people in this world. It allows you to relax about the small stuff, and focus your attention on things that really matter to you. I do hope there are other things that really matter to you. Perhaps you need a hobby, or a volunteer organization?

    • OMG something similar to this happened to me today! I was in the break room at the office and there was one donut left. I went to wash my hands and get a napkin and soon as I turned around, a coworker picked up the last donut. It wasn’t a big deal to walk downstairs and buy a donut from the deli but shouldn’t he have at least given me a conciliatory “mmmm” or let me lick powdered sugar off his fingers?

      What are the rules on this type of situation?

    • “I suggest you learn to take such things in stride.”

      +1. Perfect comment. This should have been the first, last, and only comment in this thread.

      And I agree with Veronika: since when does having your helmet on and your little key in your hand entitle you to anything beyond a feeling of self-satisfaction at being prepared?

      • if they hadnt taken the time to grab the helmet as they walked out of their house, they would have had PLENTY of time to beat the other person to the bike.

    • ah

      Should have proposed to flip a coin for it. If you don’t put up a fight, don’t take your sour grapes to POP.

  • It’s survival of the fittest. Run faster next time.

  • Along the lines of the OP, what is the etiquette when two people are going for the last bike in the rack?

    One person has a CaBi key in hand, the other has started the process of paying with a credit card but has not received the rental code. The person with the CaBi key could come in and take the last bike right under the nose of the non-CaBi member.

    Does having a CaBi key/membership entitle that person the the last bike? Or is swooping in and taking the last bike just bad karma, and should defer to the person who had started (but not yet completed) the rental process?

    (For the record, this person chose karma and let the non-CaBi member take the last bike.)

    • I wouldn’t say it would be bad karma, I would say it would be being a complete jerk.

      I think the right thing to do would be to say “hey, are you about to rent this bike?” and when they say “yes” you go “OK, got it” and walk away.

  • The one with the bigger screwdriver.

  • Clearly we need to resort to childhood playground rules. First one to say “it!” or “mine!” gets it.

  • When its the last bike, the last parking space, the last candy bar, or the last seat at at a table, people are generally inconsiderate douche bags.

    We’ve all had our moments at some point.

    Yes, it sucks. Yes, she was extremely rude and she was unquestionably in the wrong. However, she also got the bike. End of story.

    • Why was she “extremely rude and unquestionably in the wrong?” What’s wrong/rude about taking the last bike? Someone is bound to do it. I don’t see anything whatsoever wrong about arriving first and taking the bike.

      • Uh, she saw him with a helmet and hurried to get there first? Thats crappy.

        • And she was also headed there. I don’t see why the OP was any more entitled to the bike than the woman. Because he had a helmet?

          • He implied he was closer at one point, which would imply first in line, and she hurried to get there before him. The equivalent of cutting in line.

          • Except that there’s not line at a CaBi station, so, no, it’s not the equivalent of cutting in line. I read his statement as meaning they were equidistant, as well, not that he was closer. One person was going to walk more quickly and get the bike. He’s just upset that it wasn’t him.

          • I interpreted it as he felt he had the clear advantage in time, proximity, and clarity that he was heading there. She realized she was about to lose out and made a break for it.

            Its not polite and it is wrong… you should allow the person who was closer, who was obviously outwardly committed to getting the bike, to have it.

            Had I been her, I would have allowed him to have it.

            However, the fact that she’s a huge jerk doesnt really matter. We have to deal with huge, inconsiderate jerks. Thats the way life is. At least this guy didnt have to walk 8 or 9 blocks to the next station.

          • It is so interesting to me how everyone assumes the OP is male.

          • ess,
            what interests you about that?
            i assumed it, because the OP specifically mentioned a “woman” approached, not ” another person”.
            but really, does it matter?

          • I thought it was a girl– something about the tone of the letter.

  • Proper manners in this situation requires you to challenge your bike competitor to a duel. Anything else is a great insult to your honor. That you failed to do so has only revealed to us your status as that of a lowly merchant or craftsman rather than a landed gentry. Enjoy your walk, peasant.

    • I’m going to start using “peasant” as my go-to insult. It’s better than having my kid pick up on “jackass”, right?

  • someone’s alittle too concerned about someone else’s headgear. oh, wait it’s dc, we are supposed to be self righteous busybodies.

  • I would have rock-paper-scissored for it. seriously. that way it’s at least fun/funny for the loser
    btw: i have won RPS *ONCE* in 8 years against my boyfriend. Seriously.

  • i just wish CaBi etiquette included following the basic rules of the road like stopping at intersections and not riding on the sidewalks.

    • I wish I could read one post about bicycling without having some moron complain about cyclists not stopping at stop signs.

      I also wish drivers would stop at stop signs and not run over cyclists, but we can’t all get what we want.

      • +1,000

        Get over it people. Cyclists can do this without causing any harm… Although I’ll give you that there are a lot of idiots out there that give us cyclists a bad name.

        • i ride my bike everyday and can’t believe how dangerous (and oftentimes oblivious) a lot of (read: not all) bikeshare riders are. going right through a stop sign and screwing over other bikers (or cars or peds, for that matter) with the right of way is not OK. some bozo whizzed through his stop sign making a right on 14th street forcing me to break hard or else crash into him or careen into the bus passing me on my left. i’m all for bikeshare and biking, but come on.

        • Get over it people = the beginning to every intelligent counterpoint.

    • how would it make your life better?

      • the rules of the road are there for everyone’s safety. there are offenders everywhere: cars, bicycles, pedestrians, no one is excluded from this. But nobody’s life is better when a bicycle fails to stop at a stop sign and gets killed or injured by a car (who presumedly has the right of way). I don’t want to kill cyclists anymore than they want to be killed. I do my part to be safe on the road, and is it too much to want the same from the cyclists out there too?

        • When this starts to become an issue we’ll talk. As it is, we live in a major metropolitan area, and statistically it never happens. That’s why there’s a lot of not-giving-a-fuck going on out there.

          • We can always rely on you to present the douche bag cyclist perspective.

            Everyone is telling you that reckless cyclists are an issue. You continue to be in denial. You make up reasons why cyclists are exempt from following the rules while at the same time running your mouth about why cars are such law breaking assholes.

            Also, when you say “statistically” it doesnt happen? what doesnt happen? bikes getting hit by cars? Oh, it does happen, because cyclists complain about it all the time. But we only hear about cyclist accidents through the lens of the cyclist, who is ALWAYS absolutely sure they were not at fault.

            I can say with absolutely certainty, that despite your efforts to inoculate cyclists from responsibility, the way I see cyclists ride, they are nearly certainly responsible for some of the accidents that they are involved in.

          • Here’s what I saw in the Recent Comments box:

            We can always rely on you to present the douche bag cyclist …

            And I knew exactly who you were responding to. 🙂

          • Everyone is telling you that reckless cyclists are an issue.

            Everyone is telling you that reckless motorists are an issue.

            Everyone is telling you that reckless pedestrians are an issue.

            And every group has douchebag perspective.

            Don’t get me started on those damn kids on their roller skates. Roller skates!

    • agree agree agree!

    • I strongly disagree. I don’t feel safe on the road most of the time, so where it is legal (outside of the central downtown area), I ride on the sidewalk. I’m not going to give up biking just because there are too few safe bike lanes in the city. My sidewalk riding is in no way endangering any pedestrian ever. As a frequent pedestrian, I also resent careless bikers (and drivers), but let’s condemn the behavior and not the option to ride slowly and safely on the sidewalk where it is legal.

      • I think (or at least my beef) is with the central downtown area. Hey, where there isn’t a lot of pedestrian traffic, ride away, my friend! But…on L street at 8am on a Tuesday right outside of a Red Line stop? It’s so common, I’m starting to practice an elbow to the ribs move. I kid, I kid…

      • All you sidewalk riders think you’re not endangering pedestrians. You also think you’re not in the way. You also think that pedestrians (on the sidewalk) are supposed to get out of your way when you ding your little bell.
        You are also sure that that bike path 7 steps away is for them, not you.

  • Speaking of “etiquette”, I think I’m far more annoyed by all the cyclists bombing down the sidewalks of busy downtown streets more than anything. I’ve been thisclose to being hit multiple times over the past few weeks, most often by people on CaBi’s bikes. If you can’t ride in the street, please just take the metro.

    • I always try to take up as much of the sidewalk as possible when these morons are coming at me.

  • as a man, i let anyone older than me, or any woman have it. if it’s another dude my age or younger, i race em. if they’re in a suit, i race faster.

    if they have a fanny pack, i let them take the bike, but then i steal it.

  • My etiquette: Yell IN YOUR FACE while I ride away with the last bike.

  • Trip them before they get their key out.

  • I thought everyone here would offer their advice, but instead they just made you sound like an entitled beotch. surprising, but I guess maybe “I was carrying my helmet” sounded more like “I was gonna use the bike correctly” instead of “I had my turn (CaBi) signal on” … ya dig?

    • sounded to me like the op was saying that it should have been evidently clear to the other person that they were headed to the bike, and that the other person gave no outward evidence that she was intending to pick up a bike.
      jesus people, so many of you read the complete worst intention is anyones post. try to step back and pretend there are other people just as nice as you in the world. maybe nicer.

      • Exactly.. sounded like OP thought the helmet showed intent (like a turn signal for a parking spot?)

      • +1 (re. people being mean/snarky/distrusting and assuming the worst of their fellow posters).


  • How ’bout just rock-paper-scissors for it?

  • I tell you what should be rule #1 with the bikeshare program (and maybe it is, I’m not a user so I don’t know): You will forever lose your membership if you are riding the bikeshare bike on the sidewalk south of Massachusetts Ave. where bikes are not permitted to be on the sidewalk (and I’m looking at you uber geeky dude who was doing this yesterday morning and told me, a pedestrian on the sidewalk, to get out of his way).

    • I ride Cabi bikes on the sidewalk south of Mass, but only on the weekend when it’s not crowded, but there are lots of people driving in to party. During the week, I ride on the street or just walk.

      Telling a pedestrian to move for a bike is an uber-douche move.

      • I saw a guy doing this to a pedestrian yesterday while he was bicycling on the sidewalk on C Street SW between 4th and 3rd.

        Is this in the zone where bikes aren’t allowed on sidewalks in the first place??

      • wow – I always jump out of the way on a sidewalk when I hear that bell, never occurred to me that *I* had the right of way. feeling dumb.

    • The issue of riding bikes on the sidewalks in DC is an issue that is at a simmer. It will boil over soon. I am always amazed at the D-bags that are biking on the sidewalk with a bike lane 6 steps away. They’re “special” I guess.
      Cell phones and bicycles. Think people, think.
      “OMG, what happened?” “Why are you in a wheel chair?”…”I was on the phone while riding a bicycle and they said I ran a red light and a car hit me”

      Don’t we learn the basics of everyday survival around age 9 to 11.

  • There’s only one way of solving situation like that, a Pants-Off Dance-Off.

  • Perhaps next time try yelling “I call the last bike!” It worked in elementary school.

  • I was in this situation last week. Repeated experience has made clear that if you want to use a bike from the 11th and Kenyon rack for your morning commute, you had better get there before 8:30AM.

    So, last week, I left my house on Sherman and Harvard ( at 8:35, and was speedwalking to the 11th and Kenyon rack, checking the Spotcycle app all the while. I watched the bikes dwindle from 3 to 2 to 1. As I rounded the corner at 11th and Irving, I looked down the block, and saw the bike there.

    I started running towards the bike. There was no one around, but I was going to be late for work if I didn’t get that bike and did not want to chance someone rounding the corner from Kenyon. So I sprinted. As I neared the bike, I noticed a young woman wearing a backpack walking up 11th. I didn’t slow down.

    The bike was out of order and would not come out of the dock (Spotcycle needs to stop listing out of order bikes), so all that effort was for nothing. I decided to make for the bikes near Howard, at Georgia and Fairmont. As I started off, I noticed the young woman with a backpack. She was carrying a helmet I hadn’t seen before. I asked her if she was looking for a bikeshare, and she said yes, but didn’t know where to find one. I offered to walk with her to Howard, and that we did.

    She never said anything about me sprinting to the bike, and neither did I. We chatted amiably, she thanked me for showing her the Howard location, we hopped on our bikes, and headed our separate ways.

    If I have to get to work, I will run to get to a bike first, just like I will squeeze into a Metro car. It’s a case of limited resources that have a material benefit, and I don’t see anything wrong with taking initiative, and moving faster than the next person to take advantage of an opportunity. I’m from New York City, and I have been trained to approach the morning commute as a competitive sport, like steeplechase.

  • austindc

    I think it should be the same etiquette that we use for things like letting people go through doors. Ladies first, older folks before younger folks, etc. If you are the same age and sex, then it becomes a feat of strength. Each of you has 120 seconds to do as many pushups as you can. If neither of you tops 250 pushups in that time, the round is considered null, and you proceed to round two: grease wrestling. An animal fat is preferred, but vegetable oil will be allowed in a pinch. Helmets are recommended, but not required. The wrestling match begins when your Spotcycle app updates and ends when someone starts crying. It doesn’t have to be you. It could be a passerby. But if you both start crying at the same time, get ready for round three: scorpion dodge ball. Special Cabi Rule: You cannout remove the Round 2 grease before having scorpions whipped at you. Anyway, continue in this manner until there is a clear victor. Problem solved.

  • 30-40 years ago the answer to this question would have been obvious. You graciously offer the bike to the other person, who may have greater need than yourself. They may (or may not) say “Thank You”, and offer it back to you. At that point you can take the bike.

  • I keep picturing the OP as George Costanza. “We’re living in a SOCIETY here!!!”

  • Who cares if you had your key out and had a helmet, irrelevant. This has happend to me several times and you know what? Sometimes I get it first sometimes the other rider does. She ran, you didn’t. End of story.

  • Somewhat less than that, that’s what I was raised with. The only right answer is for neither person to take the bike first. If one does, the other person is rewarded with a satisfying feeling of smug moral superiority.

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