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All Powerful Bike Lobby
June 3, 2013 11:20 AM   Subscribe

NY magazine compares two different "old people"s (Dorothy Rabinowitz and Bill Cunningham) opinion on the new Citi Bike bike share program.

The NY Times has some complaints about the racks but the bikes themselves seem popular.

Chicago is getting ready to roll out it's program in 2 weeks.

previous bike sharing posts (1 and 2) about DC bike share.
posted by garlic (159 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I see the racks all over the city, but I've only seen one being ridden so far.
posted by jonmc at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2013


Bill Cunningham is a national treasure and basically, from this Chicagoans perspective, the most persuasisve argument about why somebody should live in New York
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Puh-leeze. Metafilter is totally in hock to Big Bike.
posted by shothotbot at 11:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was SUPER skeptical about how much they'd get used (there are FOUR in my neighborhood alone) but I saw a shitload of people using them this weekend, so...
posted by nathancaswell at 11:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a picture of the bike racks in my neighborhood.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The WSJ's negative review of the Citibike share system starts with a forced 30-second long commercial for Chevron oil. Hilarious.

Also, from everyone I follow on Twitter in NYC, the bike share system is ridiculously popular and the bikes were all checked out from the first day, and everyone had nothing but great things to say about it.
posted by mathowie at 11:24 AM on June 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


When I rode into Manhattan from Brooklyn last week I must've seen 8 or 10 of the things on the streets, 3 of which were on the Brooklyn Bridge.
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:24 AM on June 3, 2013


Quick check out my office window.

No bikes spotted.

Failure.
posted by shothotbot at 11:25 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyways, I'm not on Ms. Rabinowitz's side of this particular argument, but "begrimed" is a great word, you gotta admit.
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:26 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dorothy Rabinowitz is asserting things that she can't back up... Actually, worse: her truthiness (about the majority of the city are appalled re: Bike Share) conflicts with, uh, reliable polling that indicates that 74% of NYCers support the bike share program.

She's an EDITOR?! Goodness.
posted by entropone at 11:26 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Streetsblog NYC has been covering the kerfluffle in the NY media over the Citi bikeshare. Most of the objections are unwittingingly hilarious.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:26 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen a half dozen mostly-empty racks but no actual humans riding the actual bikes.

I am worried about Skynet now.
posted by elizardbits at 11:27 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've seen lots of people using these (and lots of half-empty racks), so I figure they're getting used. I saw someone ask and now I'm wondering, too: why are the bikes facing out into traffic with the racks near the sidewalk? In spots where they bikes aren't in a pedestrian area, you're basically standing in traffic pulling the bike out while cars roll behind you. Maybe they're trying to protect the computers in the racks over the bikes?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:27 AM on June 3, 2013


And yes, Bill Cunningham is a national treasure. May he live to 100 and never lose his spirit.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2013


Now That Citi Bike Is Live, Will All Cyclist Injuries Be Newsworthy?
Citi Bike Membership Surges Past 20,000 — Smell the Desperation at the Post
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2013


How can I join the bike lobby?
posted by RakDaddy at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're moving into a Citi-Bike area later this month; I have to admit, I'm tempted to try the whole thing out, despite being terrified of biking in NYC traffic.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2013


Rabinowitz says. "Look, I represent the majority of citizens.

Hilarious and accurate. All elderly jewish women firmly believe that their opinion is the most valid of all possible opinions. It is the one thing I truly look forward to in old age.
posted by elizardbits at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2013 [28 favorites]


The Wall Street Journal hates it so it must be pretty good.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:29 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


What I don't get is that this is being treated as some kind of wacky experiment instead of NYC catching up with something hundreds of cities across four continents have had for years.

I still have membership of the Dublin one for when I'm home at Christmas etc. - for €10 a year, I might as well.
posted by kersplunk at 11:30 AM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Relevant: The bike-share Whine-O-Meter.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:31 AM on June 3, 2013


It doesn't count as a real thing unless it happens here obvsly.
posted by elizardbits at 11:31 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


We've had them in Boston for a couple of years now. There's a rack right outside my building and most of the time about 3/4s of the bikes are gone. I assume they're being used.

A few folks in my department use them to shuttle back and forth between our building and the main hospital, which is a couple miles away and is usually a quicker walk (or ride) than drive, due to traffic.

I'm not sure what the general public opinion on them here is, but I think they're a great idea. Glad to see more cities using them.
posted by bondcliff at 11:32 AM on June 3, 2013


I saw one on the street so I googled it over the weekend. I was hoping it would increase Chinese food delivery efficiency if they could use these bikes instead of those bikes that seem to be held together with old plastic bags and twine. Turns out there are no racks above 59th street. Oh well.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:32 AM on June 3, 2013


My 20-something nephew who was working as a bike messenger just started working for the Citi Bike program riding around from station to station and maintaining the bikes. So thumbs up from me for keeping part of my family employed.
posted by octothorpe at 11:32 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Its actually the perfect example of the conservative mind-set. The way things are today is the way they SHOULD ALWAYS BE. Whether that is the distribution of wealth or the sorts of transportation we subsidize.
posted by shothotbot at 11:33 AM on June 3, 2013


I keep watching the Rabinowitz video and laughing. Is this sort of transparent propaganda typical of WSJ these days? Weren't they a newspaper once?
posted by EtzHadaat at 11:34 AM on June 3, 2013


If they had these in my city, I would use them at least weekly for work and errand purposes. I car commute to work (biking isn't really an option as I have to drop off kids, one of my own and one a neighbor, at school on the way) but once there I often have short trips to make for meetings and to run errands. Driving is inefficient and expensive for those small trips and walking is too slow.
posted by cell divide at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one complaint that I have about the similar system in Boston (aside from the fact that they never put in the station near our house like they promised, those bastards) is the helmet requirement. Not to open up that particular can of worms again here, but if they are going to require helmet use they really need to have a way you can check out a helmet like you can check out the bikes, rather than needing to lug one around with you. Even a nominal fee for a cheap single-use helmet would be nice. I could see a system where you buy the lining (to avoid gross stranger sweat) which you fit in to a disposable cardboard helmet, and then either a) lining comes out and you can wear it like a cycling hat or b) wad the thing up and cram it in your pocket. Helmet shell gets dumped into receptacle at the bike station and either reused or recycled.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Between the program’s inception on Monday morning and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, cycliststraveled a total of 32,265 miles on the system during nearly 13,000 trips, officials said. More than 20,000 people have signed up for annual memberships.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/nyregion/as-bike-share-begins-in-new-york-other-cities-scoff-over-fanfare.html?_r=1&
posted by fieldtrip at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always found it weird this never launched in Portland, Oregon. I suppose everyone already has a bike (or 2, or 10) but since the city has so much bike lane infrastructure, it seems like a slam dunk to launch a service like this for visitors at least. Last I heard, the city was constantly evaluating competing firms.

Anyone in PDX know what the current status of a bikeshare system coming to town is?
posted by mathowie at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2013


Here is another idea for Bloomberg, or some entrepreneur who wants to make literally thousands. Many buildings do not allow tenants to bring bikes through the lobby or in the passenger elevator. Someone should open storefront bike garages, pack the bikes in and also have an air hose and a small pro shop that can fix flats etc. Charge $25-$50-$100 bucks a month plus maybe extra for a maintenance plan plus incidentals like fixing a flat.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Glad to see the NY system up and running. I have used the Paris Velib' system many times when visiting and simply love it. It's an incredible - not to mention cheap and effective way, to see move about the city. When they introduced a similar system here in the Twin Cities a few years back I predicted the worst. I feared the geography and weather would spell doom for the system, that people wouldn't use them etc etc. I am pleased as punch that I was proven totally wrong, the system has been a huge success here though structured that a yearly subscription makes far more sense than the daily. I ride one almost every day either for a quick bike ride or to go grab lunch.

Paris used to be very bike unfriendly, the launch of Velib' changed that, at least in the viewpoint of this outsider. Hopefully this same type of change will occur in New York.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:41 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dorothy Rabinowitz is hilarious and crazy. I would like to see her tinfoil hat.

Seriously, though, I'm not going to join Citibike (not having depth perception makes bicycle riding perilous, and I don't want to die), but I think most people love it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:42 AM on June 3, 2013


I'm amazed that anyone could be against this. NYC is already full of bikes. A few more isn't going to bring on the apocalypse. Sure, some bikers ride like maniacs, but many drivers here think an open stretch of street is an excuse to go as fast as possible.

And as someone who has driven the streets of Manhattan many times, I have to say, a lot of the pedestrians here are not exactly model citizens when it comes to following traffic rules.
posted by freakazoid at 11:44 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this sort of transparent propaganda typical of WSJ these days?

The News Corp has had a hate-on for bicycles, bicyclists, and bike lanes in NYC for many years now. It has the appearance of an organized smear campaign, dictated by management, but I can't figure out what they're trying to gain here.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:44 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder when CitiBike will expand beyond the initial rollout. I would think there'd be interest in renting bikes in Upper Manhattan, though I wonder if there would be a problem with bikes migrating downtown; can't imagine biking uptown (I'm thinking north of 125th Street) would be any fun given the incline.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:45 AM on June 3, 2013


I would think there'd be interest in renting bikes in Upper Manhattan, though I wonder if there would be a problem with bikes migrating downtown; can't imagine biking uptown (I'm thinking north of 125th Street) would be any fun given the incline.

At least in DC, they're regularly trucking bikes around from station to station, moving them from popular ride end points to popular starting points.
posted by inigo2 at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder when CitiBike will expand beyond the initial rollout. I would think there'd be interest in renting bikes in Upper Manhattan, though I wonder if there would be a problem with bikes migrating downtown; can't imagine biking uptown (I'm thinking north of 125th Street) would be any fun given the incline.

In DC the trucks drive the bikes back up the hill.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2013


My favorite New Yorky thing is that there were numerous reports of people riding the bikes, like, spinning, without removing them from the racks. Anything to avoid the gym.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


Interesting! I wonder if they are already doing that in NYC or if it's mostly balancing out on its own.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:50 AM on June 3, 2013


The NYT had a great multimedia feature showing a series of races between the CitiBikes, public transit and "New Yorker's Choice" (walking, taxi, etc.) The bikes won three of the five, with cabs winning the other two (albeit at higher expense).

Also, I don't know if 61 counts as properly old, but David Byrne on bikeshare.

Personally, I think it's great (I've used DC's system); we need to be moving from the one-size-fits-all solution of the car to a portfolio of mobility options. Transit is great when there's the density of demand to support it, walking is free and healthy but only practical for very short trips, carshare systems of various sorts are rolling out (car2go has 15,000 trips a day in seven cities now, and is rolling out several more). Bike share solves two problems; mid-distance trips where walking is a little far but a motorized solution is overkill, and the "last mile" problem of transit; even somewhere with the density of Manhattan has very limited service east-to-west, so bike share is great for replacing a transfer.


The News Corp has had a hate-on for bicycles, bicyclists, and bike lanes in NYC for many years now. It has the appearance of an organized smear campaign, dictated by management, but I can't figure out what they're trying to gain here.

If liberals like something, it must be bad. This is my only working hypothesis for the culture war on bikes, but it certainly seems consistent with the evidence.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:51 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


backseatpilot: Helmet rental machines are on the way.

That said, I ride the Hubway without a helmet all the time.
posted by mkb at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2013


In DC the trucks drive the bikes back up the hill.

We have a downhill walk to the T from our house, so if they ever put a bike station up at our neck of the woods I can grab one, coast down the hill, and then get on the subway.

Haven't quite figured out how to coast home up the hill, but maybe the Hubway truck will give me a ride.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


PDX is coming soon. Same with Seattle and Vancouver BC. The same company that did New York's has the contracts.
posted by fieldtrip at 11:55 AM on June 3, 2013


In DC the trucks drive the bikes back up the hill.
Eventually. The coverage of outlying stations is dismal. I was an early adopter, then dropped after mounting frustration with racks that were always either empty when I wanted a bike or full when I wanted to return one. If this were a private business I wouldn't mind it so much, but these folks are getting millions in tax money and aren't serving the public nearly as well as they claim.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2013


Actually walking down Broadway a minute ago, I saw two more people riding them. So maybe it's catching on.
posted by jonmc at 11:57 AM on June 3, 2013


The Chicago program is interesting in that it sounds like they are meant to cover the last mile of a commute downtown. I'm a fairly experience cyclist and I still find that riding into the loop is somewhere between sketchy and a deathwish (I did it today and ended up walking my bike that last bit that these bikes are meant to cover). Even with the protected lanes, there are a lot of people in big cars just not paying any attention at all. This could work if they close the entire downtown area to vehicle traffic or at least charge a fee to drive into the loop and have the bikes on the perimeter. Certainly would be awesome on the lakefront.
posted by mike_bling at 11:57 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of things going on here that extend far beyond this story -- everyone is a bit right and a bit wrong. Some people present their cases well (Bill Cunningham) and some not so well (I think that one is obvious here...yikes).

I often bike to work here in NYC, and have biked for a long time. I often ride the subway. I have driven in the City. Like everything here in NYC, it is a total hodgepodge of people, skills, training, talent, lack of talent, considerate people and completely insane people paying no attention to others.

To get a sense of how nobody is particularly perfect here, try to ride a bike or walk or drive across a crowded midtown street...say, East 58th. The streets are not the carefully drawn diagrams you would see on a driver's exam. They are chaos. You will find a mass of pedestrians and tourists jammed out into the streets and flooding out into the intersections. You will find cyclists darting in and out of traffic. You will find delivery trucks stopped on both sides of the street creating a gauntlet of boxes and dollies and delivery guys popping out from all sides. You will find giant steel plates that make it impossible for anyone to bike in a straight line when things are wet. You will find cabs doing all manner of insane things. You will find cyclists observing the rules of the road, with helmets on and all manners of lights and signals and gear. You will also find cyclists who have never driven a car and have no idea what the rules might even be. You will find good drivers and bad drivers. You will find people with common sense who are trying to stay on two feet, or two wheels, or four wheels or 18 wheels while slowly moving through a morass of dumbass.

But a lot of the vehement opposition you see to programs like this isn't just a clear case of anti-bike. There is a lot of opposition to the way Bloomberg and Janet Sadik-Khan plow some of these programs through. So, something like this comes along and if you love bikes you can't see how someone would oppose it. The same for the pedestrian plazas. However, the methods that were used to create those programs were clever and crafty and a bit roundabout. I think there is a lot of resentment and anger there that you are seeing here. And while I think this bike program could be great, there are aspects of it that feel a bit like someone just knocked your Big Gulp out of your hand when you weren't looking.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 11:58 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone should open storefront bike garages

Along the same lines as the motorized elevated car storage, I bet one could erect at least four vertical bike storage carousels on a 20'x40' piece of corner real estate, each chain-driven carousel rising as many stories in the air as cost and surrounding architecture will allow.

How many bikes could you put on one that rose thirty stories in the air?
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:58 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently Dorothy Rabinowitz won a Pulitzer Prize a decade or so ago.
posted by octothorpe at 12:03 PM on June 3, 2013


all of them

all the bikes
posted by elizardbits at 12:03 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


She's an EDITOR?! Goodness.

No, she's a member of the Editorial Board. The WSJ has (at least) two distinct components: the reporting, which is factual and often very good, and the editorial stance, which is often back-side-of-the-moons-of-Saturn crazy.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:05 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know I would buy a bike if I didn't have to get buzzed in to the service entrance and find someone to run the service elevator. They don't run the service elevator after say 5 pm, or on weekends, so if I find a guy to run it I'll probably have to tip him. Late at night the concierge is usually asleep on the couch in the lobby, it is hard enough to get him to unlock the front doors, let alone the service entrance.

Might as well buy a car if I'm going to go through all that.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:06 PM on June 3, 2013


Dorothy Rabinowitz expresses her distaste for the system with some all-time great pearl-clutching
That is a great description of genteel conservatism.
posted by Cranberry at 12:07 PM on June 3, 2013


Portland had yellow 'free to ride' bikes. Probably was a boon for spray paint manufacturers.
The City Club of Portland OR has proposed taxing bicycle purchases in order to finance street repair.
posted by Cranberry at 12:10 PM on June 3, 2013


Even with the protected lanes, there are a lot of people in big cars just not paying any attention at all.

One thing that bikeshare programs can be good at is in creating the safety in numbers effect, which has been well documented. As the number of cyclists in an area rise, the accident rates drop. (Ridership doubled in NYC between 2005 and 2008, and casualties stayed at the same absolute number; i.e. the accident rate was halved.)

I think that there are a number of reasons for this; drivers become more used to cyclists so start to expect them (or at least recognize the possibility of their existence); the gung-ho cyclists who ride aggressively are diluted in the population by more conservative cyclists, and they find they no longer feel the need to ride so aggressively because drivers expect them more; cycle infrastructure becomes more of a priority; more drivers are also cyclists.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:10 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


What about, you know, making a cheap bike that is affordable by everyone, rather than promote a system of capitalist ownership to squeeze rents out of the people.

There is no reason we can't make a decent sub$100 bike if we can make a sub$100 computer.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:10 PM on June 3, 2013


I'm a huge fan of the bike share. HUGE. It's pretty awesome.

Some background: I've been riding in NYC for the past eight years, and have my own bike, been in my share of accidents, and now bike pretty calmly and safely. I wear a helmet regularly. So this is coming from someone who loves biking.

1) The bikes don't fulfill a need. They create an ability.

I'm not using these bikes because want my own bike. That's not what they're for. They let me jump from space to space impromptu, very very fast, without having to worry about locking bikes up or leaving bikes behind.

My conception of the city has totally changed, in that if I'm in Manhattan wandering around on foot, my internal map of "where I can go" has become expanded threefold its normal size. For example, if I had thirty minutes, I used to be able to run errands to places that were, say, max 5-10 blocks away, since I would have to get there, do my thing, come back. With the bike share, it becomes 15-20 blocks, since it's very trivial to pull out my cellphone, check where a stop is nearby, check where a stop will be, walk to the nearest stop, and roll out.

2) Infrastructural change

It works amazingly in conjunction with the subway. It used to be that if I had to head back home to Brooklyn from, say, the East Village, since I live off the C train, I had to walk to the F train, take the F train into Brooklyn and transfer to the C train all the way home.

Now, I can just hop on a bikeshare and bike five minutes crosstown to the C train, and take that all the way. Or - I could just take the F train, get off in Brooklyn and bike all the way home. Especially later at night, this is a godsend.

It works the other way - I don't live off a single stop - with the bikeshare, I essentially live 5 minutes from 7 subway lines. Friends who live off the G don't live off of the G; they live off of the 2/3, the C, the L, etc.

3) Increased awareness/access

I've taken the bikeshare a total of, say, fifteen times so far, and every time I ride it, people come up to me and ask me about it. EVERY TIME. A guy driving a livery cab, a cop on a horse, an older woman holding shopping bags, another person on a bike. And everytime I say "it's $100 a year, for unlimited rides!" they're always surprised and more intrigued.

And every time I'm surprised that the demographic is not what I expected. I mean, at the danger of appearing classist/pessimistic, I kind of expected to have young middle-class educated (white) people asking me about it. But no - it's always a different contingent -- the non-young, non-white, non-college-educated, non-yuppie, non-hardcore-biker contingent. And I'm super excited about it. This may allow biking to become more of a communal, city-wide activity, not just banished to the realms of twenty-thirty somethings who bike in Brooklyn for ecological/health/cost reasons. Because after all -- a larger demographic riding bikes = increased awareness = increased access = increased bike lanes = a better bikeable, walkable city for all.
posted by suedehead at 12:14 PM on June 3, 2013 [55 favorites]


My city is getting a similar bike share system next year. The fact that we're only a year behind NYC is pretty astounding to me. We're usually a decade or so behind the rest of civilization.
posted by octothorpe at 12:16 PM on June 3, 2013


What about, you know, making a cheap bike that is affordable by everyone, rather than promote a system of capitalist ownership to squeeze rents out of the people.

Not everyone wants to own a bike. Sometimes people just want to use it for a little while and then put it back. Not everyone has the storage space for a bike in their house. Tourists might want to use a bike. Maybe someone who has never ridden a bike before wants to try it out and see if they like it. Your glorious worker's paradise is largely irrelevant in this particular scenario.
posted by elizardbits at 12:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


I've had a $100 bike in New York. I'd rather have a service. Same thing with a car.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Philly has been kicking this idea around for at least a decade. The Mayor has pledged city funding, let's see if we can really get it done this time!
posted by Mister_A at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2013


But really how can anyone call the bike lobby 'all powerful' with a (presumably) straight face?
posted by Mister_A at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


What about, you know, making a cheap bike that is affordable by everyone, rather than promote a system of capitalist ownership to squeeze rents out of the people.

Those exist. If you want to express outrage at the capitalist system, I think a bike share is pretty low on the hierarchy of Stuff That Oppresses the Proletariat. Maybe we should focus on cheap cars instead of forcing the poor folk to pay rent to cab companies? Or we can all get our own private subway cars and avoid emptying our purses to the MTA! That would be pretty cool, actually.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


We should actually set up a system of public nanotechnology 3d printing stations and matter decompliers. I can walk up to the machine and stick in something like a metro card and it spits out a bike and charges $2.50. Then when I get where I am going I chuck it in to the matter decompiler and the molecules get reused to make umbrellas or something and I get back $1. That would be pretty cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:23 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why have restaurants, just seize control of the means of food production! Everyone must own their own home or their lives are meaningless cannon fodder for the capitalist machine! No ice skating in the winter time unless you have your own ice skates, provided by the state! No buying plane tickets anymore, everyone must own and maintain their own airplanes!
posted by elizardbits at 12:23 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


What about, you know, making a cheap bike that is affordable by everyone, rather than promote a system of capitalist ownership to squeeze rents out of the people.

In New York City, the problem is not "obtaining a bike for cheap", the problem is "where do you store that cheap bike once you have it." I HAVE a bike, and I consider myself lucky that I found a cheap place to park it (I rent out a corner of someone's garage a block away), but it's still a hassle and I'm sometimes tempted to sign up for this so I wouldn't have to worry about storage, locking it up, etc. And my renting out someone's garage is an ideal scenario - other people have the choice of a) toting it up 4 flights of stairs (often on foot), b) renting space in a parking garage for a hundred bucks a month, or c) chaining it out front of your building and risking theft/damage from weather/etc.

This is New York City, remember. We don't have garages or back yards.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on June 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Folks any more quips about seizing the means of production, etc. can be handled by MeMail.

-Mister_A, Fake moderator, Voice of Reason.
posted by Mister_A at 12:28 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair, too, I haven't looked at the CitiBike map yet but at least in Boston Hubway has not really expanded in to a lot of the poorer/blue collar neighborhoods and I think that's kind of a shame and shows off how the city still has a ways to go, integration-wise. Also, subsidized memberships for low-income people would be nice, I would certainly pay more if it helped other people that needed it get it for cheap/free.

Anyway, this thread finally got me to sign up for Hubway! Even if I don't use it too much I hope it helps build the user base and expand the network.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:28 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone should open storefront bike garages

My local bike shop™ has a sign up in the window offering 3 months of winter storage for $50, which seems like a great deal (though it's in Brooklyn, where the cost of storage space is slightly less ludicrous than Manhattan).

Personally, I already own a bike and there isn't a station near my house, so I can't quite justify the $100 annual cost for membership. There is a station literally outside the front doors of my office in midtown, but to pick the bike up would require me to walk about 20 minutes in the morning (or take a 5 minute bike ride). The idea of having somebody else maintain the bike, fix flats, etc is appealing, although the idea of riding 45 pounds of pig-iron over the Brooklyn Bridge is not.

Also, here's a nifty visualization of the citibike program in action.
posted by whir at 12:29 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no reason we can't make a decent sub$100 bike if we can make a sub$100 computer.

My apartment costs three digits per square foot. It's not the bike that's expensive. Not to mention the hassle of coming out to see your bike stolen.

I've seen tons of them in use (probably because I live close to the bike-friendly Hudson River Park), and I will definitely get a membership once Baby Snickerdoodle decides to get the hell out of my uterus already because it is too damn hot to be this pregnant.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:32 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was in Ottawa last weekend/week and had to run some errands on Monday. Decided to try the Bixi, which is the equivalent.

As it turned out, my errand took me quite a bit further than I'd expected. I thought it was about 12 km roundtrip; after looking at the map it was about 30, on a hot day, with me in a not-light black jacket (I'd biked to the airport in below-freezing temps, so..) The Bixis, which look pretty similar to the NY ones but I dunno, were very front-heavy compared to what I'm used to, although my bike is very back-heavy. The gearing wasn't hard enough for a biker as strong as I am.

Both of which are minor, minor problems, and the gearing isn't actually a problem at all for its intended use. I spent a bit more than planned, but that's because I was out for probably 4 hours, when you include my time at the errands and the fact that where I went there are no stations (yet?) so I had to keep it. If I lived in Ottawa I would absolutely get a membership.

Someone said upthread that what it does is expand the range of locations reachable in x time - that's exactly how I felt. I went from lunch with a friend downtown back to my temporary home with no trouble at all, where I might have before. Very cool things.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:35 PM on June 3, 2013


Yeah....people took what I had to say waaayyy out of proportion. I know sub$100 bikes exist, my emphasis was on decent. It just saddens me that we spend most of our time trying to increase the returns to renteirship rather than ownership. If space is a problem in NYC I'd rather we found more ways to make cheap effective collapsible bikes. I'm not even a Marxist so I don't know where all that came from.

Everyone must own their own home or their lives are meaningless cannon fodder for the capitalist machine!

Heh. I know you were being ironic but people being in debt to the banks and not owning their homes was precisely what led to the crises.

Also I just want to add that bikes are awesome and helmets suck.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:37 PM on June 3, 2013


The whole media hoopla in NY is really amusing in how it showcases the parochalism of people there.

Us Bostonians are supposedly unable to look past our noses, and yet from the moment the Hubway system was proposed, we all knew it was modeled after the Velib.

I live in a Boston suburb, that is well served by 6 bus lines, NONE of which were ever convenient for me. Either the bus was infrequent, or it took me somewhere with too many transfers to where I might be going to work. Now that the bikeshare system is running, ALL of them serve me fine. I just get on anything that takes me into the Hubway service area, and then I get where I want to go. One time the bus I wanted to take was cancelled because the driver was trapped in his car on a bridge where the police were trying to talk a suicidal man out of jumping. I found out about this on my smart phone, hopped on a bus going the other way because the MBTA app showed me it was going to be just in time for a commuter train, got on a Hubway bike from North Station, and arrived at work only 7 minutes later than usual. Because of a bus run that was not delayed by canceled outright.

Anyway, this system is even better for New York than it is for Boston. Bostonians have more places to stash their bikes. And New Yorkers are going to make far more mutually-cancelling trips on the bikeshare bikes, so the avbailability of bikes will be far better.
posted by ocschwar at 12:42 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know I would buy a bike if I didn't have to get buzzed in to the service entrance and find someone to run the service elevator.

Have you looked at folding bikes?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:47 PM on June 3, 2013


For car users who take other kids hither and thon, yeah, I can see that a biking day isn't that feasible. I'm still trying to work it out for my short commute, while balancing getting the kids and emergencies.

You might look into signing up with a local commuter service that covers emergency rides home.
posted by tilde at 12:50 PM on June 3, 2013


Friends who live off the G don't live off of the G; they live off of the 2/3, the C, the L, etc.

Yeah, this is a great thing; I live off the G, but I have a bike that I often use in conjunction with the L, which can cut my travel times in half.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:52 PM on June 3, 2013


Someone should open storefront bike garages

Chicago Bike Station at the north end of Millennium Park. Free, secure bike storage for commuters.

Monthly or yearly membership packages give access to showers and lockers, bikes to rent, and discounts on on-site repair service, as well as 24-hour storage capability.
posted by tzikeh at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you looked at folding bikes?

A guy in my building bought one thinking he could circumvent the ban on bikes in the lobby and passenger elevator. Hahah no. He got it through the lobby once before a nasty memo went out clarifying that folding bikes are still bikes.

I don't really know what the issue is. If you carry it you aren't tracking mud or dirt on the lobby floor. They also claim it takes up too much room in the elevator, potentially forcing other tenants to wait but people take those giant all terrain baby strollers in the passenger elevator all the time.

It it was < $100 bucks I could chain it up someplace and not worry too much. But that isn't a real solution. We can't have millions of people chaining bikes everywhere. It would be worse than those fucking learning annex things.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:00 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love that smarmy WSJ woman interviewing Rabinowitz, who snurfs "New York's not PARIS or AMSTERDAM"... true, they probably don't have quite the same number of chicken bone cairns and fast food wrapper puddles, but most of those towns are pretty ok to look at IMHO.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:04 PM on June 3, 2013


Anyone in PDX know what the current status of a bikeshare system coming to town is?

Portland Bikeshare is currently raising funds but scheduled to open Spring 2014.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:05 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait if I can pick one up in LIC I could ride to Greenpoint couldn't I? Score!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:06 PM on June 3, 2013


Will the network expand to... other boroughs? Not Staten Island, obvs, but real boroughs?
posted by Mister_A at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2013


There is no reason we can't make a decent sub$100 bike if we can make a sub$100 computer.

That's not how bikes work. Complete bikes can't be manufactured cheaply like computers and shipped to stores from China/Taiwan. Almost every bike you see had to be put together by someone and that's labor that has to be paid for somewhere.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 1:17 PM on June 3, 2013


There are lots of sub-$100 bikes at Walmart.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:22 PM on June 3, 2013


There are lots of sub-$100 bikes at Walmart.

And all of them are crap. Super heavy aluminum with cheap components thrown together doesn't a "decent" bike make.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are <$100 "bicycle-shaped objects" at Wal-Mart.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Computers didn't always come from China, they used to be assembled by your weird uncle after months of scrutinizing Computer Shopper and going to computer shows to cobble together the parts.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:38 PM on June 3, 2013


A friend who has owned several bikes in NYC (all stolen) joined CitiBike to save himself the heartache of losing another bike.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:46 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that there are a number of reasons for this; drivers become more used to cyclists so start to expect them (or at least recognize the possibility of their existence); the gung-ho cyclists who ride aggressively are diluted in the population by more conservative cyclists, and they find they no longer feel the need to ride so aggressively because drivers expect them more; cycle infrastructure becomes more of a priority; more drivers are also cyclists.

Also, packs of cyclists are easier to spot than just a few here and there.

We are getting these in Ft. Worth. They are kind of cute!
posted by emjaybee at 2:03 PM on June 3, 2013


Those are cute! And sensible, with the basket. I ride my bike to work 3 days a week (Philly) and I would still grab one of the share bikes for running errands around town so's not to have to lock up my bike.
posted by Mister_A at 2:08 PM on June 3, 2013


Manhattan is so excellent for bikes (though not up-up town) Why spend an hour in a cab when you can ride the distance in 30 minutes, at a pace not disturbing your dignity?
I think when folks get used to this, you'll see CEOs biking. That is what happened here, when biking biking became safe enough for ordinary people.
The goal should be to have streets safe enough to navigate in a business suit.

Taking your bike on the subway is a big deal, but needs to be planned for if it grows

Here, school children learn about traffic laws. Police have a day at all public schools with the kids going through the laws, but they also have a special police-funded traffic play-ground. I have no idea how it works, but kids love going there. It deals with motorized traffic as well as bikes and pedestrians.
posted by mumimor at 2:17 PM on June 3, 2013


Maybe it's just me, but the woman interviewing Rabinowitz seemed like she knew she was in the presence of a singularly eccentric/crazy person, and was just trying to ride out the interview.

And while I'm fairly agnostic about the bike share program, I was a bit annoyed by the way my favorite fresh juice street vendor was displaced from the location he's had for years in order to make space for the bike racks.

I'm also not sure that taking people who would otherwise be using mass transit (which needs the $) and putting them on bicycles is actually helping the environment...
posted by BobbyVan at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2013


Why are the Chicago/NYC systems so much more expensive than Paris? Citibike is $100/year or $10/day. Divvy in Chicago is going to be $75/year or $7/day. Velib', which has the exact same 30-minute-per-ride system and the same bikes, is 29 euros a year or €1.70/day. Is it just really heavily subsidized, or what?
posted by theodolite at 2:21 PM on June 3, 2013


If liberals like something, it must be bad. This is my only working hypothesis for the culture war on bikes, but it certainly seems consistent with the evidence.

Exactly this. If liberals hated them, conservatives would fall over themselves in an orgy of bike-loving "good ol' days" nostalgia. The safety bicycle is basically straight out of the late 19th century: a time when men were men, women were property, children could be beaten, minorities knew their place, and there wasn't any income tax. How could they not be all for that?
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:25 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love that smarmy WSJ woman interviewing Rabinowitz, who snurfs "New York's not PARIS or AMSTERDAM"

Amsterdam doesn't have a bike sharing scheme. I don't count OV-Fiets because you can only pick them up from train stations. Why there is not such a scheme here, I have no idea.

London of course has the Boris Bike, but failed to add in many bike lanes which makes it hard to ride safely when helmets are not rented with the bikes. Paris, the original and best, really got everything right. I look forward to cycling in New York on my next holiday!
posted by wingless_angel at 2:27 PM on June 3, 2013


My wife and I leave for Paris on Wed and the one thing I'm super excited about is being able to rent Citi bikes to get around. To think we won't have to spend as much time on the metro and instead we can get some exercise and see the sights has me giddy.

Also funny to hear Rabinowitz call out Bloomberg for having "14 or 15" residences around the city. Why is it terrible that a progressive (if you can call Bloomberg that) has amassed a great deal of wealth and real estate? I thought she was a big fan of the 1%.
posted by photoslob at 2:28 PM on June 3, 2013


Can't believe I just considered the "bike someplace sober, cab home drunk" use case for these. If Chicago ever gets the coverage that their "coming soon" map suggests, I am completely on board.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:30 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


And all of them are crap. Super heavy aluminum with cheap components thrown together doesn't a "decent" bike make.
This sort of discussion always involves moving the goalposts. Always.

Huffys and Schwinns are perfectly decent bikes. Heavy, sure, but so are the rentals. They have tires and wheels and handlebars and probably better gear ratios than the rentals.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:44 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fun stuff you should know about the bikes made in Quebec by Devinci:posted by scruss at 3:03 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


London of course has the Boris Bike, but failed to add in many bike lanes which makes it hard to ride safely when helmets are not rented with the bikes.

Especially with all the street racing! I never knew British were so into street racing until I saw Fast & Furious 6.
posted by yeti at 3:04 PM on June 3, 2013


> Huffys and Schwinns are perfectly decent bikes.

Maybe, but the Bixis/Citi Bikes are basically street furniture you can ride. Bombproof. Water, ice and salt-proof. Everything is guarded, hidden or tamper-proof so chains won't rust out in the wet, or bits get stolen from them. They have very tough wheels and tyres. You don't need to wear special clothes to ride them. That's why they are somewhere north of $1500 a bike, and survive for years outside where a Huffy would be a sad pile of oxide.

But yeah, the gearing (in Toronto, at least) is a bit low. But look at my mad cadence skillz now!
posted by scruss at 3:10 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


street furniture you can ride

I have never heard a better description of this sort of bike. Keeping!
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:13 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe, but the Bixis/Citi Bikes are basically street furniture you can ride. Bombproof.

Exactly. Those bikes are designed to need next to zero maintenance and are completely bomb and theft proof and have some seriously strong wheels. You're not going to be KOM on them but if you hit a ton of potholes and drop it off of curbs (like most city riding) and abuse it, like I see people doing CaBi bikes, it's not going to go out of true or leave you busted on the side of the road. Good luck finding that level of reliability on thrown together junk.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 3:19 PM on June 3, 2013


theodolite: Why are the Chicago/NYC systems so much more expensive than Paris?

Vélib’ is operated by JCDecaux, an advertiser, at a loss in return for the right to place ads on bus shelters, kiosks, etc. It's estimated that without the subsidy an annual Vélib’ membership would be $150–$190. Bloomberg Businessweek has a brief article on the economics of Citi Bike as compared to Vélib’.
posted by RichardP at 4:25 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


It just saddens me that we spend most of our time trying to increase the returns to renteirship rather than ownership. If space is a problem in NYC I'd rather we found more ways to make cheap effective collapsible bikes.

A collapsible bike will not, with any current technology, fit in your pocket. That's what this service is -- thinking of it as bike rental is technically correct but misses the big picture. It's effectively a bike the size of a credit card or key chain that you can just carry around with you and forget about.

Bikes are great, but they can be a hassle; you need to lock them so they don't get stolen, you need to maintain them, you need to store them. If you're out and about, you either have a bike with you for the entire tour from when you leave home until you return or you don't. With bikeshare, you can pick and choose. For example, I live only four blocks from my office, so the hassle of taking a bike (either my own or a bikeshare) is more trouble than simply walking the 10 minutes. But then maybe* I get a call from my friends to meet up for supper somewhere a 40 minute walk away. I don't want to leave work early (or get there late) by walking; a taxi or bus ticket would be relatively expensive for such a short trip. It's the perfect trip by bike, except I didn't bring my bike with me. That's what bikeshare is perfect for.

I'm reminded of the advice Dan Savage gives when he gets calls from couples looking for a third person for a no-strings-attached threesome. Part of what you pay a prostitute for is to have sex, but part of it is so that they go away afterwards without any complex emotional baggage. The benefit of bikeshare schemes is not just in the rental, it's in the fact that once you've parked your bike, it's not your problem anymore.

*I do not actually have any friends I meet up with spontaneously; this is an example only.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Here is another idea for Bloomberg, or some entrepreneur who wants to make literally thousands. Many buildings do not allow tenants to bring bikes through the lobby or in the passenger elevator. Someone should open storefront bike garages...

Sure, I suppose. But the solution isn't an elaborate network of new bike storage businesses, it's either bike sharing (like we have here) or changing policies to make it easier for people to store bikes in their homes and other convenient locations. Sure, some people simply don't have room in a tiny NYC apartment crammed with roommates for any bikes, but beyond that, buildings can be pressured to change their policies and find a reasonable way for residents and employees to bring their bikes inside. If market pressure isn't enough, regulatory action to force the issue should be a lot less controversial than Big Gulp legislation.
posted by zachlipton at 4:49 PM on June 3, 2013


You're not going to be KOM on them

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:41 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really know what the issue is. If you carry it you aren't tracking mud or dirt on the lobby floor. They also claim it takes up too much room in the elevator, potentially forcing other tenants to wait but people take those giant all terrain baby strollers in the passenger elevator all the time.

Solution: get a folding bike and a giant stroller to tow behind it. Put the folding bike in the stroller to go through the lobby and elevator.
posted by jacalata at 5:53 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here is another idea for Bloomberg, or some entrepreneur who wants to make literally thousands. Many buildings do not allow tenants to bring bikes through the lobby or in the passenger elevator. Someone should open storefront bike garages, pack the bikes in and also have an air hose and a small pro shop that can fix flats etc. Charge $25-$50-$100 bucks a month plus maybe extra for a maintenance plan plus incidentals like fixing a flat.

Not sure whether this has been addressed upthread, but two comments about this:

A) That's illegal. There are specific city ordinances requiring commercial -- and I believe also residential -- building owners to either allow bikes in lobbies and elevators or provide separate facilities (like a freight elevator or back entrance or something).

B) This already exists. Most garages intended for cars offer bike parking at a relatively reasonable flat monthly rate. I don't think any of them also do maintenance, but then again I don't think most garages do car maintenance either. It would be nice to have a place to get a flat fixed every couple blocks rather than every couple miles, though.
posted by Sara C. at 5:56 PM on June 3, 2013


The Wall Street Journal (the newspaper part) used to be better, but Dorothy Rabinowitz has been a fact-free right-wing ideologue on their opinion pages for twenty-some years. One can never go wrong simply taking the opposite position from any she espouses.
posted by lathrop at 5:57 PM on June 3, 2013


The safety bicycle is basically straight out of the late 19th century: a time when men were men, women were property...

Actually, the safety bicycle finally made cycling accessible to women, and thus provided a cheap source of mobility for single working women.

The safety bike expanded women's choices a lot. To the point where it's almost a feminist icon. (And probably part of the reason that so many turn of the century bike advertisements featured women.)
posted by Sara C. at 6:02 PM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


What about, you know, making a cheap bike that is affordable by everyone

The problem isn't that bikes aren't affordable by everyone. Even the most bangin' top of the line gorgeous bike costs, what, a couple thousand dollars? A year's worth of unlimited Metrocards would buy a quite high end bike. You can get something practical, and pretty good looking for under $500. You can get a perfectly good secondhand bike for around $200.

The problem is that, in New York, people live in tiny walk-up apartments and it's not safe to lock a high quality bike on the street. Having a bike is affordable, but it's often not practical. CitiBike solves that.
posted by Sara C. at 6:09 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


We think of quality bicycles as being expensive only because we've learned to think of bikes as toys, not transportation. Compare both purchase price and cost of maintenance to the most jalopy-ish automobile and even the most absurdly expensive bicycle comes out cheaper, without even touching fuel costs.
posted by asperity at 6:20 PM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


suedehead's experience pretty much mirrors my own when Toronto's system rolled out two years ago. It changes the way you think about biking—you don't have to worry about where to park your bike, you don't have to worry about whether it'll get stolen, you don't have to worry about leaving your bike at home or leaving it somewhere for the night if you want to go out to the bar, you don't have to decide whether you want to risk biking to work in the morning if it's going to rain in the afternoon, etc. etc. etc. I also had plenty of people at the beginning ask me about how the system worked, to the point where I had a patter down—"oh, so you pay for access to the system—five bucks a day, twelve bucks for three days, and up to $95 for a year—and during that access time, you can take a bike out as often as you want and ride for up to half an hour!"

Sadly, the Toronto experience has lost a bit of its shine. The company running our system (which I think may or may not be the same company behind the NYC system) is awful at social media and the internet in general. Service changes like station moves are poorly communicated, especially in my area, where no fewer than four stations have vanished without a trace in the two years I've used the system. Moreover, there seems to be no political will to help expand the system and the private organization running it isn't fantastic with finances, so the system seems doomed to shuffle its stations around in a vain attempt to increase the service area without actually paying for new infrastructure. I wish someone would come in and actually give Toronto the bikeshare system it deserves. But for now, my life is measurably better with bikesharing than without.
posted by chrominance at 6:49 PM on June 3, 2013


When they put the NiceRides out in the Twin Cities every spring it's like a metro-wide holiday. First you see all the local tweets and retweets: "The Nice Ride rack is up on my corner! Spring's almost here!!!". Then you see the "first sighting" tweets: "Saw my first NiceRide of the year going down the street just now. W00t!". Then you just spend the next few months enjoying them and you feel sad when the trucks come to take them away, because it means Winter Is Coming.

I've never ridden the local bike share, we're running a pretty major bike surplus in our household, but I had the chance to use the Paris Velib' and understand the awesomeness from the inside, and it just makes me even happier to see people on those silly green NiceRides.

I know people who work downtown and use the city bikes to get back and forth to meetings instead of wasting time on public transit or moving their car out of the parking garage. I know people who rely on them when family visits, who aren't stocking numerous extra bikes like I am. I know people who are experimenting with the whole bike commute movement, and get the chance to try it on without a major investment. I know more than a few people who just use them to get home from the bar. A lot of these people could, and maybe eventually will, just get and use their own bikes. But it's an urban area and not everyone has a convenient place to store a bike, or wants to use up precious garage or basement space during the winter.

I am wholeheartedly Team City Bike Share Programs.
posted by padraigin at 7:06 PM on June 3, 2013


I've been a member of the Twin Cities program since it started 3 years ago (first in the US!). I don't use it every day or anything but it is very nice for randomly taking a ride wherever I happen to be. Also useful for parking a mile or two from my destination and biking in to avoid paying for parking. For rides originating from my house, I just use my own bike of course. It would have been a lifesaver back in college when I couldn't afford to buy, maintain, or store a decent bike.
posted by miyabo at 7:52 PM on June 3, 2013


Maybe, but the Bixis/Citi Bikes are basically street furniture you can ride. Bombproof. Water, ice and salt-proof. Everything is guarded, hidden or tamper-proof so chains won't rust out in the wet, or bits get stolen from them. They have very tough wheels and tyres. You don't need to wear special clothes to ride them. That's why they are somewhere north of $1500 a bike, and survive for years outside where a Huffy would be a sad pile of oxide.

Oh, nonsense. It's really not difficult to find a durable walmart casual bike made out of aluminum for $100. Less even. I bought one a few years ago for less than $90 delivered, and it still rides fine. Citibikes may indeed be overbuilt. But it does nothing for ridability. Or for the occasional vandalized bike.

I don't know what makes folks assume cheap bikes from places like walmart are unusable. They are perfectly fine, often use the same parts as a Citibike, often easier to maintain than fancy bikes, and from the looks of it, can remain in service for decades. They're seen all the time on the road by actual commuters. Not Bicyclists™, mind you. Just people who need the wheels to get to work. The difference with the walmart bike is that maintenance and storage is your problem. User grade bicycles are ridiculously cheap. But the American market doesn't really want user grade bikes very often. It caters more to the toy market, on the low and high end, where economies work on either volume or markup.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:40 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It just saddens me that we spend most of our time trying to increase the returns to renteirship rather than ownership. If space is a problem in NYC I'd rather we found more ways to make cheap effective collapsible bikes.

Done ! (via)
Collapsible bikes are, oh, one hundred and twenty-one years old - they were done up for bicycle infantry. And people have been working on cheap, effective, and collapsible ever since. The current marketplace for bikes is pretty efficient, and bike tinkerers are bit ... obsessive. If a near-perfect $50 dollar folding bike were possible, it'd probably exist by now. And cost a bike shop $200 bucks to assemble and tune up.

The relationship between bike-sharing and folding bikes is more of a cultural, urbanism, or marketing/advocacy issue. I think the shared-bikes change the landscape a bit, in terms of habituating drivers, charming and converting would-be cyclists, pushing bike friendly infrastructure, pushing up bike numbers. This all ends up helping the people who might choose to own a bike rather than renting one.

If liberals like something, it must be bad. This is my only working hypothesis for the culture war on bikes,
The US has lots of people driving. And people driving tend to mildly dislike and href="http://grist.org/article/2011-01-25-if-driving-is-so-great-why-are-you-so-mad-at-the-people-walking/">resent anything that slows them down or makes them have to make new decisions.

posted by sebastienbailard at 10:01 PM on June 3, 2013


I love how Ms. Rabinowitz's contribution now takes up an entire paragraph of her Wikipedia entry.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:21 PM on June 3, 2013


What about, you know, making a cheap bike that is affordable by everyone

I really don't know what you're arguing against here. I mean, we accept public housing as a social good, and people don't own their public housing, do they? And the mortgage part of the financial crisis involved people who were being pressured beyond their means into homeownership.

Sure, there are risks when contracting out a public good as a service, and there's often a whiff of patronage at the very least. Guard against that with transparency and accountability. But the existence of a service you ... pay for ... is pretty ingrained in a lot of "public" entities. Say, the bus or the subway.

So it's not the paying for it that's really the problem, and offering choice between ownership and rentership is actually not the thing that most people are pondering. It's having a bike, or not having a bike. As noted, there are less obvious externalities with bike ownership such as storage and theft risk that need to be accounted for. There are also the users for whom bike ownership isn't even part of the question, like someone who trains it in from Stamford and then takes a bike to a meeting and back.

No, what we really want is an urban fabric that encourages green behavior (and healthy, and fun behavior). A city like New York suddenly overrun by 10x or 100x as many bikes is a city that suddenly has many fewer cars, with all their smog, their carbon footprint, their space footprint, and most importantly, their externalized costs such as gasoline and maintenance. I live in a smaller city where you can literally bike anywhere in 20 minutes, and we have a good arterial bike trail that lets you do that off the streets (and it isn't even that much farther), but still few actually use bikes for things like going to work, school, or shopping, because a) the infrastructure (bike parking, say) isn't entirely there yet, and b) most of them already own a car because it's somewhat rationally necessary. Yet we lost our GM plant and have a growing population on benefits (not for much longer, the way the state is going) or barely working in service jobs, so these people really, truly are being milked dry by the expense of owning a vehicle.

Now, fortunately in New York, that necessity is already significantly reduced. But the decline of manufacturing still means that there aren't enough jobs in the metro area, and when they are, they aren't necessarily nearby. Fifty years ago there were probably over a million New Yorkers who walked to work.

The question is how do we reconfigure our cities so that fewer people are forced to own cars. Bike lanes are one part, but bikes that are just available the way that transit is are also a key component, at least while it's still New Amsterdam and not Amsterdam. Then over time you'll see more compact development, stores and jobs and homes closer together, and fewer people who just wake up every day knowing that they need a car to get through their day. THAT is the real challenge.

Becuase, as noted, if you want a cheap bike you can already get one.
posted by dhartung at 11:26 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huffys and Schwinns are perfectly decent bikes.

Horses for courses. I've done a fair bit of community and shade-tree mechanic stuff for friends, neighbours and relations, and see these bikes all the time.

The $100 Huffy does fine for occasional weekend outings on the multiple use paths. In this mode, such a bike can last for a long time, years. They're decent first bikes for kids and for the parents who want to wobble along with them.

But, for a regular ride, I've seen people demolish the drivetrains and wheels on a big box store bike a in a season. Dead chains wearing out the rear cluster, bent rims, wheels with wobble on the order of an inch, and so on. By the end of the first season as a daily commuter, that Huffy needs at least $50 in repairs, $75 with a rear cluster, a bunch more if it needs a new rim. It's almost cheaper just to buy another one.

The owners of these bikes usually don't know much more about keeping them up than how to pump up tires. Perhaps worse, Toys-R-Us or Walmart don't exactly hire bike mechanics either. By the time I've seen them, one or both brake are opened to prevent rubbing on the wobbly rims, chain wear has started to degrade not just the rear cluster but often the front chainrings as well, and at least one derailler is non-functional, often because it wasn't set up right in the first place. They aren't just worn out, but quite often are unsafe to ride too.

Because of these problems, I don't recommend people buy these if they intend to ride regularly. About $300-$350 will get a very serviceable bike, and starts to get into the bottom of the name-brand parts sets. In my experience, this level of bike will have a longevity of at least a factor of five over the $100 level, and will be much safer ride too, as the breaks will actually work and the gears reliably shift.
posted by bonehead at 2:08 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Along the same lines as the motorized elevated car storage, I bet one could erect at least four vertical bike storage carousels on a 20'x40' piece of corner real estate, each chain-driven carousel rising as many stories in the air as cost and surrounding architecture will allow.

We have something like that locally, but it's underground: the Velominck automated bike park system. I use it a lot when I'm biking to Amsterdam Central Station, as it's located by the ferry across the station. Fifty cents and you have your bike parked safely for a day, away from any would be vandals or thieves.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:33 AM on June 4, 2013


Amsterdam doesn't have a bike sharing scheme. I don't count OV-Fiets because you can only pick them up from train stations. Why there is not such a scheme here, I have no idea.

1) Everybody who lives in the city already has a bike, to a first approximation
2) Plenty of commercial bike rental places for the tourists.

And you know, if you're going to visit Amsterdam for a period longer than a day or two, do hire a bike. If you're comfortable biking it's one of the best ways to really get to know the city and you're not bound by where the tram lines go.

Just don't wear a helmet or we'll think you're German.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


What's interesting is that a quick look at Google and social media shows that Rabinowitz and the anti-Citibike articles in Murdoch publications aren't being "picked up" by conservatives on blogs or twitter. Like literally-- the only people linking to her or mentioning her online are people who are making fun of her statement.

I always envisioned the members of the Wall Street Journal editorial page "plugged in" to a network that was kind of like Buzzfeed for conservatives in which their talking points were both received and disseminated, and I still think that may be the case, but in this case it looks like Rabinowitz as "gone rogue" with her anti-bikesharing tirade, and most of her conservative media colleagues and fans are pretty much pretending she never said anything out of embarrassment.
posted by deanc at 5:07 AM on June 4, 2013


But anyway, getting back to the feasibility of New York's program in the particular....

I had literally no idea these were coming (and I mean "literally" in the, er, literal sense) until coming home one day and suddenly seeing a bunch of racks on a particular streetcorner near me, and a couple of people standing next to it and staring curiously. I had seen the Barclay's bikes in London, so I at least knew what they were, but I'd had no idea they were coming. I probably wasn't the only one, as my city councilperson got a town-hall meeting set up a couple days later to give people a chance to speak out about the bikes "because we had not been given the opportunity to do so" despite Citibank's claims that they'd conducted opinion polls in my neighborhood.

I do see people using them, and I generally think it's keen (the bike rack on my block is outside my favorite bar/brunch spot ever, and hey, more business for them is happymaking). But I'm concerned about a couple of the placements of some of the racks - they have four racks right on Park Avenue in Brooklyn, which is a service road for the BQE and has no bike lanes - and cars tend to go really fast as a result. I've seen one bike v. car accident on Park Avenue, I was in a car that got into a bike v. unicycle accident, and I just know that more bikes out on Park means we're gonna have some kind of an accident there before long and that'll be a black mark on the program.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:34 AM on June 4, 2013


Great article, timely thread. I am totally sold on bikesharing programs and am delighted that it's come to NYC.

I have foot and knee problems that mean that I can't walk indefinitely, but I can ride bikes forever. Rideshares on tourist trips have been absolute saviors for me.

Riding around Paris by Velib was one of my absolute favorite parts of my visit. And I just had a marvelous, marvelous trip to Montreal that was made even better by Bixi. (To wit: after an utterly dreamy meal at Salle a Manger up on Mont Royal Ave, fella and I wandered around til we found the nearest Bixi stand, meandered over to the street with a bike lane, and then had the most delightful ride down the hill to our hotel, through a lovely park, on bike lanes all the way. I mean, it was like a freaking movie, absolutely perfect.)

Back at home I've been reluctant to sign up for Hubway, because of the epically belligerent drivers here. But I just checked out the web page and the admonition to "Ride joyfully!" has me totally sold. I don't get a lot of sense that anyone in Boston does anything particularly joyfully, but from my experiences elsewhere, bikesharing really is a way to do that. I recently started working right near the Greenway and am itching for an excuse to explore the city a bit more, so hey, Hubway, I'm in!
posted by Sublimity at 5:49 AM on June 4, 2013


I don't know what makes folks assume cheap bikes from places like walmart are unusable

There's nothing wrong with the materials - it's the build, as others have outlined above, that's the issue. Bike share programs take out having to worry about the chain snapping, the brakes failing, or the entire bottom bracket falling apart because of a crappy build. I'm not opposed to cheap bikes - whatever it takes to get people on bikes is fine with me - I'm just against shitty bike builds, which is what you get at big box stores.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 6:15 AM on June 4, 2013


I was in a car that got into a bike v. unicycle accident

Wait, what?
posted by Karmeliet at 6:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm concerned about a couple of the placements of some of the racks - they have four racks right on Park Avenue in Brooklyn, which is a service road for the BQE and has no bike lanes

FWIW, I don't know where they could put bike share racks on any of the main streets in Clinton Hill without running into this problem. The whole neighborhood is inundated with BQE traffic at any time that could be remotely called rush hour, and it makes it a pretty toxic place to ride. I hope the bike share changes at least the entitled attitudes of the drivers around there. Pretty much the only time I ever feared for my life riding a bike in New York was when I lived in Clinton Hill.

(Though in general I think you're right about Park, which is a particularly bike-unfriendly street.)
posted by Sara C. at 6:27 AM on June 4, 2013


Karmeliet - yep, a unicycle. The unicycle was crossing the intersection in front of us, and the driver was trying to turn through the intersection - he was moving at a crawl but still didn't stop, and knocked the guy over. I THINK the driver thought he was making a tight enough turn that he'd clear the unicycle, and was just really wrong about that.

The unicyclist was bruised and shaken, and justifiably pissed, but otherwise uninjured; an ambulance came to check him out, but he was standing and ambulatory and lucid, and the EMS crew was treating him as if he wasn't in major danger.

If you're asking more "why a unicycle" rather than "what happened," that I can't tell you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 AM on June 4, 2013


Because Brooklyn, basically.
posted by Sara C. at 6:30 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


A city like New York suddenly overrun by 10x or 100x as many bikes is a city that suddenly has many fewer cars, with all their smog, their carbon footprint, their space footprint, and most importantly, their externalized costs such as gasoline and maintenance.

This is what I'm hoping will happen in theory but in practice I think it will end up being more like people who would have taken the subway or a cab that will end up using the bikes, and the car people will remain car people. It takes a very different mindset to get used to going places/running errands without the assistance of a car and its storage capacity, and many people won't do it voluntarily. (in nyc)
posted by elizardbits at 7:03 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, it ends at 59th street eliminating a decent part of the commuter market. Come north my blue friends!
posted by shothotbot at 7:33 AM on June 4, 2013


Yeah, if it's centered on Manhattan below 59th St., Brooklyn, and maybe some parts of Queens it's unlikely that they are going to convince a lot of drivers to give up the car. Most people who drive into Manhattan routinely live far enough out that it makes sense to do so. Nobody is going to bike from Bay Ridge or Forest Hills to Midtown for work on a bike share bike.

I think it might decrease the number of cabs people take, though.
posted by Sara C. at 7:37 AM on June 4, 2013


Empress, I was mainly wondering who is headed somewhere and thinks "Should I take the subway, or walk? No, I'll take my unicycle."

elizardbits, my boyfriend has started doing that, a little bit, since they introduced a bike share in Antwerp. Not so much for grocery shopping, but for small errands, or going to the bar/cafe/whatever. Of course, as long as the weather is decent.
posted by Karmeliet at 8:08 AM on June 4, 2013


> It's really not difficult to find a durable walmart casual bike made out of aluminum for $100.

Cheapest alu bike I could find on walmart.ca was $178 but they do have the steel 26" Mens Next Challenger Bike for $88.

To turn this into something approaching the facility of a Bixi, you'd need lights and a bell (both required by law here), mudguards, a chainguard, a carrier rack or basket, a lock, tools, a pump, consumables (like oil, tubes, brake blocks) ... plus all four of the time, space, skill and inclination to maintain a bike. In the first year, you'll probably need new pedals; nylon-bodied ones twist and start spitting bearings in a couple of weeks for me. Having done a few bike clinics, I wouldn't put money on the long-term reliability of the rear cluster, wheel bearings, bottom bracket or butter-soft alloy rims, either.

So either you're looking at a new bike every year or two, or for the same price or less, a bike rental membership.
posted by scruss at 8:09 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Paranoid Style in Bicycle Politics: A Bicoastal Freak-Out - "When Dorothy Rabinowitz implied that New York's bikeshare program is totalitarian, she was channeling rhetoric heard on the West Coast, too."

That transcript has to be read to be believed. There's nothing more whiny than someone whose entire lifestyle has been subsidized by decades of preferential treatment and regulatory capture, facing some action that is not entirely designed to personally benefit them.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:23 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


In conclusion, she claims, "The bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise."

Oh, don't I fucking wish.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Empress, I was mainly wondering who is headed somewhere and thinks "Should I take the subway, or walk? No, I'll take my unicycle."

My guess, having lived in Empress' neighborhood and having known people who owned unicycles, is that they were probably on their way to a party or a performance/art thing of some kind.
posted by Sara C. at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2013


I mean, a unicycle is like the equivalent of having a rebuilt Model T Ford or a Delorean or something. More of a cool toy than a daily commuter.
posted by Sara C. at 10:08 AM on June 4, 2013


There's a dude who does the Ride to Conquer Cancer (two days, 200km, Toronto -> Niagara Falls) on a unicycle. I hear he's pretty damn awesome.

There's also a lady who does it one-legged. Just...blerg.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:37 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I got burned riding over the Manhattan bridge once by a jacked dude on a unicycle and to this day it stands as one of the most humiliating moments of my life.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:38 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


It was early morning on a Saturday in November. So Unicycle Guy probably wasn't heading to work or a party, most likely just exercise.

I didn't ask him because I was too busy freaking out that he was about to fall over and start convulsing in front of us and freaking out that I was going to be late to Penn Station (I needed to catch a train, which was the precise reason why I'd gotten a car in the first place).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:04 PM on June 4, 2013


Well this seems totally reasonable:

Citi Bike Is a Nazi-Muslim Plan to Firebomb New York City
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:47 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why Conservatives Hate Citi Bike So Much, in One Venn Diagram

[Spoiler: they hate Bloomberg, sharing, healthy things, things that benefit the environment, and things that are vaguely French.]
posted by lalex at 2:55 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Felix Salmon: The Driven Elite used to be able to feel superior to everybody else just because being driven around the city was easier and quicker than than any other form of transportation... the likes of Dorothy Rabinowitz would never be seen dead on a bike, they’re railing against the evolution of their city into something great which they feel excluded from.

He also says that about half his trips have been marred by technical difficulties, which might explain some of the vastly different evaluations I've been seeing.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:24 AM on June 6, 2013


I'm impressed that the WSJ came back and published a column in support of the bike sharing plan that stresses it will be no big deal once we get used to it, and when we do it could actually be pretty great.

It's written by Jason Gay, an avid cyclist that covers all the cycling news that ever hits the WSJ.
posted by mathowie at 12:12 PM on June 6, 2013


Rabinowitz Responds to the Bike Lobby
posted by BobbyVan at 11:08 AM on June 7, 2013


The Daily Show: Full Pedal Racket - Citi Bike
posted by homunculus at 12:10 PM on June 7, 2013


Japanese automated bicycle storage robot
posted by miyabo at 9:11 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


NYC Bike-Share Clearly Isn’t Ready to Blanket the City Yet
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:04 PM on June 11, 2013


Something funky is going on - the bike spot near me has had zero bikes parked in it for the past day or so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 PM on June 11, 2013


I was nearly killed to DEATH by two ruddy-faced and intoxicated teutonic tourists on ctibikes the other day so now I think they should be banned forever.
posted by elizardbits at 7:02 AM on June 12, 2013


An empty station is probably a good sign- means the station is working. It's the full stations you should be suspicious of.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:23 PM on June 14, 2013


NYC needs some jet bicycles.
posted by homunculus at 2:35 PM on June 14, 2013


Soul Cycle For Homeless People on stationary Citi Bikes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:19 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rich People Are Getting Citi Bike Stations Removed From Their Blocks
posted by homunculus at 10:13 AM on June 24, 2013


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