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"don't pick a bike if its seat is twisted around backwards. That's a sign that a previous rider found the bike busted." -(from SamtheBrand's answer to How to choose the right Citi Bike? )

Can someone please elaborate on this rule please?

Is it widely known and used?[1]

Is this some sort of official or unofficial rule communicated somewhere?

Is it specific to Citi Bike program or generic to any bike rental/sharing ones?

[1] - I have ridden Citibikes almost every weekday for over a month in NYC, and have never observed a twisted-around seat. But I didn't set out to find one so it's not much of an evidence.

  • I've certainly not heard of this with London's similar 'Boris' Bikes, but with those there's an explicit fault reporting mechanism on the docking station - tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/15022.aspx - so you wouldn't have as much need to adopt an unofficial rule to deal with the situation. – Unsliced Aug 5 '13 at 15:57
  • I have seen the London bikes with their saddles twisted like this though, and assumed that is the reason. The NYC bikes are very similar so I'd expect they have the same button – Useless Aug 6 '13 at 14:33
  • Amusing: Only 1 day after asking, I finally saw 1 example of this in NYC (a bike had a note taped to it with problem detail, and a bike seat backwards). – DVK Aug 6 '13 at 16:23
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This appears to be a widely-used, but unofficial way of communicating that the bike is broken and should not be ridden. See the Wired article that documents this trend: "Courteous Citi Bike Riders Are Alerting Others to Broken Rides" by Christina Boddington.

Also, on Twitter, you can find numerous examples (many of which were cited in the Wired post).

  • Unfortunately, this common practice can also be used to trick other users into thinking that a bike is broken, the goal being to "reserve" a bike in a zone were bikes are scarce – at least I've seen it happen a few times in Paris. If it is the last available bike, it doesn't hurt to check whether it is actually broken. – Alexandre d'Entraigues Jan 3 '18 at 13:37
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This is standard practice on bike share systems that do not have a fault notification system. E.g., On Antwerp Belgium's bike share, rotating the seat is the recommended way of notifying the bike share maintenance workers and other riders.

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