Wednesday, November 4, 2009


We read the
NYT story on the destruction of bikes in the Paris share program with sadness. The French sociological perspective is that the program is troubled by the inequality of persons who are acting out a salvo of class warfare. Could be.

I lived through the Provo white bike program in Amsterdam and witnessed the same destruction 35 years ago. That failure and evidence that humans seemingly won't maintain that in which they have no personal stake, motivated the antipathy of The Tragedy of the Commons thesis of Garrett Hardin. He was wrong then and those who snicker are wrong now. But not nearly as wrong as the silly but well intentioned civil servants in Paris, and their followers, constructing complex multi million dollar bike rental programs complete with corporate sponsors. (In the day, you went to a bike rental store and borrowed a bike).

I think the most important contributing factor in the Paris Debikel is the fact that the bow ties who designed this program had NO street smarts! I am afraid that they represent the legions of sustainable opportunists who believe that the answer to our environmental problems will be to build our way out, create green jobs, and be the next cool thing in the process.

Smart city dwellers know that their commuter, around town bike, is likely to be stolen. They buy them by the thousands for tens of dollars. They scrounge the millions of summer rentals that are blown out at the end of a season. They reclaim the bikes of the graduating college kids who leave them as they move on. They buy them at yard sales from people who are moving up or out of the sport. They know that police auctions are a great place to buy a bike on the cheap. Millions of bikes are retrofitted every year by smart riders looking for a set of wheels. Some of these recycled bikes are the stuff of legend.

Smart cities are adapting programs that begin with biker's needs. Bike stations are becoming more widespread The problems of commuting to work are being addressed and are discussed at length here.

That is not to say that bike sharing is doomed. Three days before the Paris story ran the Times featured a group ride to a Princeton based program.

There's hope. It just might be class warfare.

1 comment:

  1. It is, after all, as if they asked Marie Antoinette to design the bikes.