What do the lights mean on Citibike?

Red/Yellow/Green: What does it mean when I get a red light on a Citi Bike dock?

3 minutes, 59 seconds Read

It’s been about a month now since I started my Citi Bike membership. I love the program; it’s completely changed how I access the city. 

Though I have a firm grasp of the value and the many benefits the service has to offer, I’ve yet to fully understand the colored light system Citi Bike uses on their stations and Citi Bike’s FAQ doesn’t help.

Just so I don’t get the “Green means go, idiot” comments, let me say I understand the basic traffic signal lights and what they mean, but what does it mean when there’s a blinking green light? What about a red light with a bike in the docking stand? What about a red light without a bike?

A Green Light:

A green light means affirmative! That’s about it. When you want to use the Citi Bike service, the green means go ahead and undock the bike. When you are returning a bike into the service, the green light tells you that you’ve successfully returned it to that docking station. Go on with your day.

A Blinking Green Light:

You’ll receive a blinking green light when you’ve been given access to a bike (either with your Citi Bike key or key code) and taken too long to remove it from the docking station. A blinking green light means that system is going to re-lock the bike if you don’t pull it out of the stand soon.

A Yellow Light When Locking/Unlocking Citi Bike:

If you get a yellow light when you’ve inserted your key to try to unlock a bike, that means that information is being transmitted to Citi Bike mothership, or Citi Mothership, to ensure you have accesss and/or you don’t have another bike unlocked. In this case, just wait until the yellow light turns green (read above) or red (read below).

You’ll also get a yellow light when locking/returning your Citi Bike. Same as when you are unlocking a bike, wait for another colored light to display to know your next steps.

Citi Bike Red Light Docking Station
A red light on a docked station with a bike in it means someone reported an issue with the dock or the bike or both!)

Citi Bike Red Lights

The red lights are what inspired me to write this post. Here are the instances in which you will see a red light lit up on a Citibike dock.

A Red Light on the Dock *with* Bike:

If you’ve used Citi Bike for any amount of time, you’ve probably come to a station with a couple bikes remaining. Your stomach drops as you walk up to a station with between 1-5 bikes left as you know that it’s likely none of those bikes will be able to be used. As you walk up to each bike, you see the dreaded red light which tells you that you won’t be able to use it.

What does docked bike with a red light mean?  Well, according to Citi Bike’s Facebook page, it means that someone has requested a problem/service on that bike/dock thus that dock/bike cannot be used.

A Red Light Displays When You Try To Unlock the Bike:

You walk up to what looks like a functioning Citi Bike stand. You insert your Citi Bike key into the dock to release a bike and the light turns yellow as the service processes your request. However, the light doesn’t give you the green light you want so badly, but the little bulb goes red.

As we know, that mean that Citibike cannot be used. As to why the bike cannot be used, there could be a variety of reasons why. Most likely there’s something wrong with the dock releasing the bike.

A Red Light on Dock When Returning a Bike:

This one is a little easier to figure out. When you see the red light lit up on a dock with no bike in the stand itself, it’s safe to say, since there’s no bike, that there is a malfunction with the dock itself. Because of this empty red light dock, you won’t be able to dock a Citi Bike into it.

What about when no light displays?

Sometimes a dock is completely dead when returning a bike. When the dock or stand is completely unusable, then no lights will flash. Definitely don’t leave your bike on a stand that doesn’t confirm or deny your bike. Move onto a dock until you get a green light that tells you the Citi Bike has locked back up successfully.

For more about Citi Bike, check out my Citi Bike Review: Is Citi Bike Worth the Money? Is something off about my Citi Bike light logic legend? Let me know in the comments.

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