Riding Around Tompkins Square Park With the Citi Bike Boyz

“These Citi e-bikes are so dangerous and so fast. You might as well be on a motorcycle,” Jerome Peel tells me as we pass an East Village docking station on a clear December morning. For Peel, “Dangerous” is relative. He and I had both taken manual Citi bikes that day, but only five minutes ago he’d launched off a ramp and hovered over three people on his rental. had taken him one try, no falls or spills, and the three young men huddled together to form the human obstacle were his fans who were also at the skate space Tompkins Square Park, otherwise known as the name of Tompkins TF (short for “Training Facility”), one of Peel’s favorite places to do tricks. Then he passed his rental to the three and told them to dock it when they were done.

Peel is the face of Citi Bike Boyz, the Instagram account on which he posts images of himself and his friends riding around New York on Citi Bikes. The 32-year-old, from West Palm Beach, Florida, grew up riding dirt bikes, which he attributes to his tenacity on the Citi Bike. “I have this crazy confidence to ride a mountain bike. When you’re jumping 60 to 70 feet, a 10-foot jump feels really small,” says Peel. “You almost believe nothing could go wrong.” Peel first hopped on a Citi bike while on a date with his then-girlfriend when the bike-sharing scheme launched in 2013. His first thought was, “If I’ll ride a bike, I’ll see what it can do.” Now he’s taking them off ramps, stairs, ledges, those square outdoor dining structures — anything that seems passable. In some articles, Peel blasts the Citi Bike over dirt jumps in remote Brooklyn parks. In others, it descends into concrete embankments on Roosevelt Island. Besides him, the Boyz are less of a set crew and more of a rotating assortment of friends who also cruise alongside him on Citi Bikes. But it’s Peel who runs the show. There is no consistent format for videos, except for one brand: the ding! the bicycle safety bell that sounds before, during or after each jump. Sometimes it looks more like ka-ching! of a cash register.

Photo: Jeremy Rellosa

Somehow this was all in preparation for a jump he made the first week of December through the tracks of the 145th street subway station. In the video, Peel pushes his way through the pillars of the platform for a few seconds before taking off. You can hear the signature ding! followed by a loud, resonant clap of the platform as it lands on the other side. His rear wheel barely clears the gap as he pulls away.

Peel has wanted to take this leap since moving to New York 11 years ago. Nigel Sylvester, a professional BMX rider, had jumped the same tracks in Harlem on a BMX bike in 2013. But it was to see skater Tyshawn Jones land a back flip on the same platform on December 8 who set him on fire to cross it himself, but on a Citi Bike. “When Tyshawn flipped it inside out, there was no thought left,” Peel says. “It was like, It must be done now.

“It’s the greatest accomplishment I’ve ever done, probably in my life,” Peel tells me. “How silly it looks… I’m jumping over the subway tracks on a fucking Citi Bike. As stupid as the concept is, it’s the biggest one, because it was the first time I really risked my life doing something.

After spending the morning with Peel in Tompkins Square Park and watching him analyze the takeoff before each trick attempt, it’s clear he’s not quite as reckless as his Instagram clips might suggest. “I value my health. Like, I got hurt,” Peel says. He underwent four-hour surgery in February following a mountain bike-related ankle injury in the fall of 2021. “I wasn’t able to walk. I was on crutches for two months. It was the first time I really screwed up.” Now he approaches each lap with more caution, essentially rehearsing a bad landing beforehand: he imagines what will happen to his body if he falls , where he will fall and what he will do to avoid getting really hurt (throwing his hands, doing a barrel roll, flying forward) He tells me he wouldn’t have jumped the subway tracks or jumped the double staircase of LES Coleman skatepark (the first round which he already posted on the Instagram page) without planning everything.

Photo: Jeremy Rellosa

“Everything is super calculated,” he assures me, inspecting a large hole inside a plastic traffic barrier in Tompkins, which he intends to cross, like a catwalk, between two ramps. He fears his tire will get stuck in the hole if he doesn’t drive through it fast enough. After watching him for a minute and making a few small adjustments, he swings on his bike, pops up off the ramp, and glides effortlessly across the barrier. Ding!

At the heart of Peel’s project is a genuine love of Citi bikes. “People send us videos of themselves throwing a bike off a bridge or destroying a bike,” Peel says. “And we respond and say that’s not cool. It’s stupid because I’m a bike fanatic. I’m super passionate about it. To me, destroying a bike is like walking into someone’s flower garden and cutting off all the flowers. It’s like, why are you hurting such a beautiful thing? »

He wants to inspire other people to ride them too. “They are not stupid at all. It’s the coolest bike. For me, it turned out to be the best thing the city has ever offered,” he says. “They came from being dumb, cheesy, heavy, bulky, and slow, to just being the coolest way to get around town.” I ask Peel — who I’ve come to realize is probably the strongest proponent of public bicycle transportation in the city — if he knows anyone who loves Citi Bikes as much as he does. “No,” he said. “But if there are, I would like to meet them.”

Photo: Jeremy Rellosa

It’s unclear what’s next for the Citi Bike Boyz. Peel also runs a clothing business called Peelswhich is his main source of income, but he hasn’t worked as much since the subway jump, he says. He just rode the wave of that achievement and plans to take a break until next year.

Surely Citi Bike superiors contacted him? “We kind of back and forth,” Peel laughs. “It was more like, ‘Can I get a discount?’ And they sent me a business link that was like $5 off. And I would say, ‘I love you.’ Sometimes I’d message them, ‘How are you? What’s up?’ They no longer respond.

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