Every so often when I log into my CitiBike account to check out my usage. Last month I came across a “Trip Completed” in my history.
I didn’t think much about the odd status because it didn’t sound like anything I should be concerned about or follow up on. Then today, I logged into my account and came across a “Trip Open” status for one of my trips from earlier in the day (By the way, the Citi Bike app needs to allow one to log into their account and to check trips on your phone), I’ve come across a couple odd statuses in my trip history).
In the above screenshot, you can see all my trips on September 1st. You can see that I picked up a bike at 3:10 PM, and then picked up another bike less than 3 minutes later at 3:13 PM. The problem? The system never recognized my returning the bike at 3:10 PM yet allowed me to pull another bike out 3 minutes later.
Citi Bike: What Does Trip Open Status Mean?
When I searched for a solution online, I didn’t find any real answers to my question. Not even on Citi Bike’s FAQs section. I did find a couple tweets from Citi Bike users experiencing the same “Trip Open” issue. The first tweet was the “Yellow Light Theory” when one returns a bike to the dock, the light turns yellow, never turns green, but the bike is locked into the dock.
Having rode on more than 100 trips as of this post, I’ve come across multiple yellow light/no green light situations when docking my bicycle but this was the first time I’ve had a “Trip Open” show up in my account history. I searched a little more and came across this cryptic response from Citi Bike’s Twitter account.
What we learned in Citi Bike’s official response was that the word “open” is the opposite of the word “closed” and that you should call customer service. When I called customer service to inquire what “Open Trip” actually meant, the answers I received were all system-related issues. The system didn’t recognize that the bike was returned (even though it was and I was able to pull out another bike later in the day). The agent asked for my Citi Bike number, tracked the bike from that trip, saw that it was returned (at some point?), and manually changed the status from “Open” to “Completed” in the system.
Curious as I am, I wondered out loud into the phone what could have caused the system to respond with the “Open Trip” status– and the agent simply wasn’t able to answer. After a couple more questions, he reverted what was clearly an official statement: “Citibike is continually working to resolve our system issues.” If you have the “Open Trip” issue — call Citi Bike customer service at 1-855-BIKE-311
My Theory on the “Trip Open” Issue
After I hung up with the agent, I thought about how this could have happened. There’s a been several times when I’ve unlocked a Citi Bike only to return it within 10 seconds when I see there’s a problem with the bike (e.g. broken bell, flat tire, bad seat). A few of those times when I re-dock the bike immediately so I can grab a better one, another rider unlocks that same bike in a matter of seconds.
So not only does that user unlock a bike I just unlocked and then quickly relocked, I also take out a different bike all in the matter of 20 seconds or so. It’s only been twice that I have received a Open/Completed status, so this isn’t a pattern, but in those two cases, I found that I immediately locked/relocked a bike within two minutes of each other at the same station to select a better bike. Check out the start stations and times below.
I do remember that when I selected another bike, a Citi Bike user unlocked the one I just put back. So basically, in a very short period of time:
- I unlock bike A
- I relock bike A immediately
- Different user unlocks bike A
- I unlock bike B
When those four factors come into play within 30 seconds of each other, that’s a lot of information for Citi Bike’s system to handle considering the assumption is when someone successfully unlocks a bike, they’ll have it for at least 5 minutes. And this is not even considering if there’s any system confusion between annual members vs. those with temporary codes.