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April 27, 2008 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Many European cities have instituted bicycle sharing programs, with mixed success (Amsterdam, Lyon, Cambridge, Paris). Now that many of them have worked out the kinks (including vandalism and outright theft), cities in the US are taking notice. San Francisco (previously on MeFi), Portland, and New York are among the cities with plans in the works, but it looks like Washington D.C. will be the first when 120 red three-speed bicycles become available next month for members who pay an annual fee.
posted by tractorfeed (73 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also: here are the rental locations in DC.
posted by footnote at 11:46 AM on April 27, 2008


Great. More idiots riding on the sidewalk.

Um, wow. I personally think anyone who thinks bicyclists should be required to ride on the sidewalk, rather then the road, are idiots. How often to cyclists cause serious injury to pedestrians?

I realize cars are more likely to run over a cyclist riding on the sidewalk when they cross the street then they are to hit a cyclist riding on the road, but that's something a cyclist can avoid by being careful. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to avoid things on a bike then in a car.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on April 27, 2008


How often to cyclists cause serious injury to pedestrians?

Not often enough to matter. Often enough to make trolls think they have an interesting point.

Either way, more everyday Americans on bicycles is a good thing: less fossil fuel consumption, more exercise, wider social and political awareness of cyclists and cycling needs (i.e., bike lanes).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:53 AM on April 27, 2008


i bet those bikes in washington d.c. are gonna be gone within a week...
posted by billybobtoo at 11:56 AM on April 27, 2008


Um, wow. I personally think anyone who thinks bicyclists should be required to ride on the [road], rather then the [sidewalk], are idiots. How often to cyclists cause serious injury to pedestrians?

Riding on sidewalks is not a good way to get around a city, for pedestrians or cyclists. It's just not a sustainable model of bike transportation, which is why it bothers me. It keeps cities from educating people on how to ride correctly and designing proper transit systems for bikes, and cars don't get used to sharing the road with bikes.
posted by footnote at 11:59 AM on April 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


Interesting that Portland lost most of their bikes to theft and vandalism, assuming the Post account is accurate. I mean, if Portland can't make it work what's going to happen in DC?
posted by docpops at 12:03 PM on April 27, 2008


lolcleptomanicsociety
posted by blacklite at 12:07 PM on April 27, 2008



Riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is gayer than Richard Simmons singing show tunes.


I don't see how riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is indicative of anyone's sexual preference, unless the bicycle had some sort of "special" seat and the rider is a bit of a freak... oh, wait. "Gay" as a general-purpose perjorative. Hurf de durf.

Anyway, Austin has, or at least used to have something like this (I haven't seen them in a while). There were these crappy, all-yellow bicycles that were for public use. You would just ride it to wherever you were going, and leave it there for someone else to pick up. No one stole them because they were totally hideous and completely no-frills. I don't think it was something the city did, it may have been some group's project. If they're worried about the bikes being stolen, just paint them all some hideous, easily identifiable color so they're not desirable and can't be pawned. Even the most desperate of junkies wouldn't bother stealing one of the yellow bikes.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:12 PM on April 27, 2008


St. Paul MN tried this with yellow bikes in 1995. Considering how badly it went there with theft and vandalism, I cannot imagine how spectacularly it is going to fail in DC.
posted by Ber at 12:16 PM on April 27, 2008


Charleston, SC tried a few years ago. All stolen within a week, if I recall correctly.

Also, bikes are for roads, ideally bike lanes, not for weaving between pedestrians on sidewalks. I've cycled in a lot of towns for a lot of years, been to some of the bike-friendliest cities in Europe where everyone cycles on the street, and I don't consider myself an idiot. Yes, American roads can be unfriendly, but that attitude will change (esp. with more bike use) before it will ever be possible to efficiently bike to work on a sidewalk full of people, their children, and their pets.
posted by farishta at 12:23 PM on April 27, 2008


Interesting that Portland lost most of their bikes to theft and vandalism

In 1998, some years after Portland had given up on the yellow bike program, a couple of friends and I moved into a rental house on a slightly iffy, mostly industrial block in SE Portland, just south of Powell near the railyards.

The house we moved into had clearly had an...interesting history, from the generations of graffitti in the back yard, to the bullet marks in the plaster wall of the living room, to the basement that had been framed out into a mazelike warren of extra bedrooms but never quite finished, to the junk still left in the house when we moved in. Junk like dirty, stained, ancient mattresses. Junk like non-functioning electronics of dubious provenance.

Junk like a couple of Portland's missing yellow bikes.

I moved out of the house in 1999, and a guy who promoted punk (and other) shows took my place. As far as I know he's still there, and so are those yellow bikes.
posted by dersins at 12:24 PM on April 27, 2008


Lexington, KY had/has some kind of yellow bike program in warm weather, and it looks like they'll keep it going this year. The FAQ on that site says that there are programs in Austin, Minneapolis, and Portland, but given the comments here that looks like it could be inaccurate.
posted by dilettante at 12:26 PM on April 27, 2008


Well, the DC ones have some sort of contraption on the rear wheel - perhaps that's a anti-theft device. Another idea might be to just build something so simple and cheap that you could turn out hundreds of them in a kit-type arrangement faster than they can be stolen or destroyed.
posted by docpops at 12:30 PM on April 27, 2008


We should institute this in NYC and pay for it with a tax on Chinese-food delivery, since that's what the bikes will be used for.
posted by nicwolff at 12:34 PM on April 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "How often to cyclists cause serious injury to pedestrians?

Not often enough to matter. Often enough to make trolls think they have an interesting point.
"

I walk enough in my bicycle-loving city to be smashed into by illegally-sidewalk-riding bicyclists once or twice a year.

It matters to me.
posted by aerotive at 12:41 PM on April 27, 2008


They should rig some ordinary bikes with trackers. Screw the cycle sharing for now and catch bike thieves instead. Work with insurance companies to get funding. Take 90% of the unclaimed recovered bikes from when you snag the gangs and paint them yellow and feed them into the system. Use the other 10% as bait. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
posted by srboisvert at 12:43 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead of making an incredibly urbane and witty comment about how the bikes will be stolen within a week, smartass comments about what the bikes might be used for, or a clearly informed opinion about the sexual orientation of bike-riding, here is a link to an Economist article about bike schemes and their funding. Note: This was written about the Parisian scheme, a few short months after it was launched.

Also: an article in BusinessWeek which is precisely about the same topic of the FPP.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:44 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


"they are being installed to make us more like people abroad rather than protect us from them." - WashPost

lol
posted by stbalbach at 12:47 PM on April 27, 2008


The DC program has a way of handling theft (from the article that some commenters apparently didn't read):

"SmartBike DC works by swiping a magnetic card at one of 10 designated kiosks. The sites are mostly near downtown Metro stations. A few are not, such as one in the Logan Circle area at 14th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW.

The computerized system assigns the rider one of the bicycles, which are locked in numbered spots on the rack. A light indicates when the bike may be removed. The bicycles may be returned to any of the 10 racks and are available 365 days a year, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. A charge of $200 is assessed if the bike is not returned. "
posted by tractorfeed at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I walk enough in my bicycle-loving city to be smashed into by illegally-sidewalk-riding bicyclists once or twice a year.

Unfortunate brushes with dangerous assholes is a built-in part of being a pedestrian, a cyclist, and a motorist. This will not change no matter how many people are on the road or on the sidewalks.

People ride on sidewalks for many reasons. Some are deliberately obnoxious and enjoy the negative attention. Some are so afraid of cars that it seems justified to them. Others are just completely oblivious to the rules. And none of this has any bearing on the subject at hand-- which is that in some cities, cheap or free public transportation is about to become accessible to a greater number of people. It's just fallout from an unfortunately successful initial derail which is still managing to echo through a thread about an interesting and valuable experiment in urban transport.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 12:50 PM on April 27, 2008


Still going strong in Edmonton after three years (despite some theft problems shortly after inception).
posted by hangashore at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2008


Copenhagen's experience, where the maintenance of the bikes provide job opportunities for otherwise less employable members of the society.

Another write-up.
posted by AwkwardPause at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2008


My home town (a smallish college town in Maine) had a bicycle sharing program in the early 90's. There were green bikeracks around the town and green bicycles that you leave at any of the racks when you were finished with it.

It took about two weeks for townie dirtballs ("Grits" in the local vernacular) to throw all of the bikes into the Androscoggin river. That was the end of the program.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I walk enough in my bicycle-loving city to be smashed into by illegally-sidewalk-riding bicyclists once or twice a year.

No disrespect, but you should have a local television camera crew around you at all times, because you are a statistical wonder. I still think this is rare enough that it isn't much a useful criticism against the program and its larger benefits to society.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2008


DC has an issue with people riding on the sidewalk. My neighborhood has separate bike lanes marked out on a number of the major traffic arteries and people still ride on the sidewalk for whatever reason. I don't think this program is likely to increase that problem, though, especially if DC gov't has thought ahead enough to realize that they'll need to carved out more bike lanes even without this program. That said, bike theft is also a big issue. I'm curious to see how this turns out.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2008


you should have a local television camera crew around you at all times, because you are a statistical wonder.

But reality television is such an execrable form of entertainment, even if it would be really, really funny to see the "smash[ing] into by illegally-sidewalk-riding bicyclists".
posted by WalterMitty at 1:19 PM on April 27, 2008


[NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] People ride on sidewalks for many reasons. Some are deliberately obnoxious and enjoy the negative attention. Some are so afraid of cars that it seems justified to them. Others are just completely oblivious to the rules. And none of this has any bearing on the subject at hand-- which is that in some cities, cheap or free public transportation is about to become accessible to a greater number of people. It's just fallout from an unfortunately successful initial derail which is still managing to echo through a thread about an interesting and valuable experiment in urban transport.

I know that if I'm riding on a sidewalk, it's because the road is totally unsuitable (high speed traffic with no shoulder.) I'm not going to try to ride in 50 mph traffic when the shoulder is half a foot wide and has a nasty ridge at the edge of it.

A lot of the problems I have when riding are due to just plain bad road construction. I can't ride to work, for example, because the only road to my workplace has a 50 mph speed limit, lots of traffic, and is narrow with no shoulder and no sidewalk (and a steep hill for a bank.) How am I supposed to deal with that?
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:29 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I, for one, do not see the humor in seeing people being "smash[ing] into by illegally-sidewalk-riding bicyclists" in that I have been "smashed into" on my bicycle by three separate motor vehicles in the past year while riding legally on the road.

Statistical wonder my ass. Try riding a bicycle around town 365 days a year, THEN chime in with your opinion.
posted by Falling_Saint at 1:31 PM on April 27, 2008


We have exactly the same scheme in Stockholm but our bikes are blue and not red.

The whole thing is actually very disturbing for me. Clearchannel is mostly funding the thing (they get free adspace from the city in return) and seeing a company you believe is utterly evil doing something like this does not fit into my simplistic view of the world.

The rear mudguards have commercials for (butt)painkillers and that is pretty neat though.
posted by uandt at 1:44 PM on April 27, 2008


Ok, so it sounds like the D.C. program works basically by making the borrower responsible for preventing the bike from being stolen. That seems fair, assuming that the lock they provide is decent. I wonder if the main market for this will be people actually using the bikes for transportation, or whether they'll mostly be used by people who are riding for recreation. I suspect it will be more of the latter. Were I able to ride a bike, I'd be more likely to tool around on one on a bike path on the weekend than to try to use a share-a-bike bike to get to work.

Ultimately, this can only be good. It increases the number of bikes on the road, and it will give people a chance to try out urban biking without having to commit to buying their own bike. It'll be really interesting to see if it works.
posted by craichead at 1:44 PM on April 27, 2008


What are the economics of bike stealing anyway? Why do people steal them, and what do they do with them once they're stolen?

I ask because this sort of reminds me of grocery store programs for protecting their shopping carts. Around here they're all chained together in the racks with these little plastic boxes clamped to the handles. To get a cart you put a coin - I've seen ones that demand a quarter and ones that demand a loonie (dollar). You put the coin in the slot and it pops the attaching lug thing out the back. When you take it back and plug it back into the chain, your coin pops back out.

I'm not entirely sure why that would help. Surely to a homeless person, the major users of stolen carts, the use of the cart is worth more than a loonie. And I still see people with them everywhere. It does mean that, if you find one of their carts, you can take it back and get a dollar for it. But it's not like you can make a living going around rescuing lost carts. The main thing it does as far as I can tell is create a new method of panhandling, where people approach you as you're unloading your groceries into your trunk and ask if they can return the cart for you.

But $200 is a whole other ball park. I wonder whether a stolen bike is worth more than $200 to the person who stole it. Because there's now at least one person out there with an incentive to buy the bike back from him for up to $200. I also wonder if the operators plan to buy back lost bikes no questions asked. And whether that's a good idea or just a way for people to hold the system for ransom.
posted by Naberius at 2:11 PM on April 27, 2008


But it's not like you can make a living going around rescuing lost carts.

"The Cart Boy"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I admire the intention, but I don't really understand the value of these schemes. A used bike costs a hundred bucks or so, a good one maybe two hundred (I ride a kick-ass aluminium Trek that I picked up on eBay UK for a hundred pounds), it's going to be easier, more pleasant, and more dignified, to ride, and plus you know it's going to be there when you need it.
I imagine it's tourists, rather than regular riders, who would probably benefit most from these 'free bike' schemes.
posted by Flashman at 2:18 PM on April 27, 2008


But $200 is a whole other ball park. I wonder whether a stolen bike is worth more than $200 to the person who stole it. Because there's now at least one person out there with an incentive to buy the bike back from him for up to $200.

If you steal one of these and try to sell it on the open market, you'll have two options: leave the wheel doohickey on (in which case it's obviously stolen property and you're likely to get busted) or take the wheel doohickey off (in which case it's no longer worth $200 even to your victim, since the kiosk will no longer recognize it).

My guess is that neither of those options is gonna be worth the risk. But who knows? People are ingenious. Maybe there's a Plan C that'll pay off.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:26 PM on April 27, 2008


Naberius: I think the grocery stores use the coin scheme to get shoppers to return the cart in the proper place rather than hire an employee to go around rustling up carts.
posted by karuna at 2:27 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


If they're three-speed bikes, at least they'll be safe from theft in Williamsburg.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:28 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The limited number of racks and the 3 hour limit make these bikes more suitable for recreation than daily commuting. I mean, if you could already get to a train station to get the bike, you could just take public transportation to the next station where the bike needs to be dropped off. The 3 hour limit should be raised to 24 hours to make it more viable, and allow people to use it for commuting.
posted by fermezporte at 2:39 PM on April 27, 2008


What are the economics of bike stealing anyway? Why do people steal them, and what do they do with them once they're stolen?

Here's a somewhat interesting article from a San Francisco alt-weekly about this topic: Chasing My Stolen Bicycle. It offers up mostly anecdotal evidence and guesses about who is doing the stealing, but tentatively connects it to the drug trade.
posted by whir at 3:11 PM on April 27, 2008


I agree that it might be nicer for tourists than for residents, but it looks like a subscription can only be obtained through the web site, and then you have to wait a couple weeks for your card. Not so tourist-convenient, I don't think.

Let's do less talking about How Great & Safe it is to ride bikes on the sidewalk. Two minutes of googling:

Sidewalks or paths adjacent to a roadway are usually not, as non-cyclists expect, safer than the road but much less safe. Risk on average 1.8 times as great, but much greater for wrong-way sidewalk bicyclists. [source]

cycling on the sidewalk is extremely dangerous [source (with statistics! check out the Relative Danger Index.)]
posted by soma lkzx at 3:37 PM on April 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to me that the successful versions of these programs seem to be run by big companies on contract to municipal governments, rather than the governments themselves; I wonder what the reason for that is. I would think it was a matter of municipalities being leery of making the large infrastructure outlays that seem to make the programs successful, but surely Paris and Barcelona already spend gobs of money on infrastructure?
posted by whir at 3:42 PM on April 27, 2008


People ride their bikes on the sidewalk for the same reason that people jaywalk--it is sometimes convenient, and no one bothers to stop them. If cops didn't mind people driving cars on the sidewalk, they would do that too.
posted by agentofselection at 3:58 PM on April 27, 2008


The sidewalk riding issue in DC is hardly a derail. DC has great potential as a bicycle friendly city (wide streets, almost year-round biking weather, relatively low traffic volume, not too hilly, somewhat spread out). But this program seems to just be an impractical advertising ploy sponsored by clearchannel, rather than an attempt to make the city truly bike-able.
posted by footnote at 3:59 PM on April 27, 2008


On sidewalk riding: my understanding is that the greatest danger comes from cars turning into sidestreets in front of you, as you leave the kerb to cross the road - they're just not expecting you to be there.

But another reason for avoiding riding on sidewalks is that a significant proportion of pedestrians remain happily oblivious to whatever's going on around them - especially when listening to ipods - and can usually be counted on to come up with the most unpredictable changes in direction. To ride safely on the sidewalk you need to slow right down to almost walking pace, which completely defeats the purpose of riding in the first place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:17 PM on April 27, 2008


Austin's Yellow Bike Project quickly became the Winos Riding Hastily Spray-painted Another Color Bike Project.

They're still at it, but none of 'em stay yellow for more than a few days.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:52 PM on April 27, 2008


What would be sweet would be if some of our government officials utilized the program, to help make it work. President Obama bikes to work! Nation follows example!
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:00 PM on April 27, 2008


But this program seems to just be an impractical advertising ploy sponsored by clearchannel, rather than an attempt to make the city truly bike-able.

What the hell does commercialization have to with riding on the sidewalk? Why do you insist on trolling with this derail even after your first attempt was deleted? WTF?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:02 PM on April 27, 2008


Toronto had a great yellow bike program for about eight years, run by Community Bike Network. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to pay BikeShare's bills (puny compared to European bike programs) and, under pressure from companies eager to secure rights to advertising rights for city-run bike loaning/cab programs, the whole outfit folded in 2007. :(
posted by anthill at 5:23 PM on April 27, 2008


I admire the intention, but I don't really understand the value of these schemes. A used bike costs a hundred bucks or so, a good one maybe two hundred (I ride a kick-ass aluminium Trek that I picked up on eBay UK for a hundred pounds), it's going to be easier, more pleasant, and more dignified, to ride, and plus you know it's going to be there when you need it.
I think some people might be attracted to the idea of not having to store, maintain or transport a bike, especially if they don't ride it very often. And if you haven't been on a bike since you were a kid, a $40 investment probably seems less daunting than a $200 one. For all you know, you might try it once and realize that you hate riding a bike.
posted by craichead at 5:53 PM on April 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's called a sidewalk not a sidebike.
posted by dobie at 6:09 PM on April 27, 2008


And just when we thought we'd never resolve the issue of cyclists' safety, the answer was found in semantics!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:30 PM on April 27, 2008


Yes, we need more complete streets (space car cars, bikes, pedestrians) but I'll just point out that lots of people (who tend to drive large vehicles) seem to think that bicycles are not actually legal to ride on the street. I mean, you can't ride your skateboard or bigwheel down the middle of the road, why should bicycles be different than any other toy? Right? (Ah-hem.) I'm told that some people will go so far as to actually call the police in an attempt to report a bicyclist riding in the street.

I take the lane and you should too. Usually.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:52 PM on April 27, 2008


What strange synchronicity--my friend who lives in Paris just e-mailed me to tell me about trying out the Velib bike programme for the first time this weekend. She said there were a few technical difficulties because she and her boyfriend were unfamiliar with the system's equipment (the machine that takes your 150 euro deposit; the contraptions where you detach and return the bikes) but once they got the hang of it, it was great.

I think some people might be attracted to the idea of not having to store, maintain or transport a bike, especially if they don't ride it very often.

That's exactly it. My friends are in Paris only temporarily, and they live in a very small apartment, so it's not practical for them to buy and store bikes. However, whenever they get the urge to spend a pleasant Sunday riding bikes, this system is a good solution for them.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:10 PM on April 27, 2008


I am a habitual recreational rider and bike commuter, and I have doubts about bike-sharing programs. I would suggest that the money is better spent on building actual bike infrastructure (racks where they are needed, secure bike parking at transit hubs, municipal laws requiring bike access to employees). There are numerous examples in New York, my fair city, in which new facilities (the New York Times building, the under-construction PATH station at the WTC, the Time Warner Center) where there is no bike parking anywhere in sight. I guess architects don't want to sully their fabulous new constructs with actual bike racks.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:16 PM on April 27, 2008


I actually rode on of Portland's yellow bikes probably 12 or 13 years ago. I eventually bought my own and I was always sad to see the number of yellow bikes decreasing and/or chained to poles as if they were owned by someone.

Portland was a different city back then (as an example prostitutes used to walk SW 3rd before the courthouse was built, then they walked what's now the Pearl+Burnside, then MLK and Broadway, now they seem to be out on 82nd... invest accordingly), it'd be interesting to see if it'd work again.
posted by togdon at 7:33 PM on April 27, 2008


In paris a good theft deterrent is that the bikes are butt ugly.
posted by SageLeVoid at 7:43 PM on April 27, 2008


I walk enough in my bicycle-loving city to be smashed into by illegally-sidewalk-riding bicyclists once or twice a year.

I live in Tokyo, which outside of China must have the highest ratio of bicycle per person per square km. There's something like one bike per person in Japan--they're everywhere. Some people will ride on the street with the cars, but I think the majority--or at least about half--ride on the sidewalk. I have a bike and ride on the sidewalk at times, but I make sure to go slow and push myself along in crowded pockets. Plenty of Japanese barrel down sidewalks and (wrongly) assume the right-of-way, and it's just infuriating when you have to dodge bike traffic on the freakin' sidewalk. Pedestrians get hit all the time by bicycle drivers and even killed; it's sometimes astounding just how fast people will ride a bike on a crowded sidewalk.
posted by zardoz at 7:46 PM on April 27, 2008


My town did green bikes about 10 years ago: miserable failure. Paris's Velib program seems to have much better potential to actually work.
posted by everichon at 8:39 PM on April 27, 2008


The breakdown of Toronto's Bikeshare program was tragic. (It only ran for five years, Anthill.) Fortunately, the Community Bicycle Network, which ran it, is still going strong with workshops like "Wenches With Wrenches" which is specifically for women wanting to learn to fix their own bikes. Rad organization.

There's no bike sharing program in Montreal but there are a lot of bikes and I feel a lot safer biking here than I ever did in Toronto when I lived there, by far. I don't know what I'd do without my bike.
posted by loiseau at 9:25 PM on April 27, 2008


agentofselection: "People ride their bikes on the sidewalk for the same reason that people jaywalk--it is sometimes convenient, and no one bothers to stop them. If cops didn't mind people driving cars on the sidewalk, they would do that too."

In lots of places it's not illegal.

In Alexandria, for instance, which is right across the river from DC (and in Arlington and Fairfax county as well, if I'm not mistaken), it's perfectly legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk. However, if you do, you must yield and give way to pedestrians -- you're at the bottom of the food chain.

If you ride in the road, you're technically at the top; if you need to take up the lane of traffic -- say to make a left-hand turn -- you're allowed, and cars are supposed to let you. In reality people seem more likely to try to run you off the road and/or just plain kill you, but that's the law.

As someone who's a sometimes bicyclist, auto driver, and pedestrian, I think this system works pretty well most of the time, given the terribly flawed and auto-centric infrastructure we've created over the past century. There are places where it's significantly safer on the whole for pedestrians and bicyclists to share a mixed-use nonvehicular path than it would be for bicyclists and cars to share the road. In a pedestrian/bicyclist collision, someone's probably going to the hospital; on a high-speed road with no shoulder and nothing but a concrete barrier at the edge, a car/bicyclist collision is probably going to end up with someone going to the morgue.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:52 PM on April 27, 2008


Kadin2048: In Alexandria, for instance, which is right across the river from DC (and in Arlington and Fairfax county as well, if I'm not mistaken), it's perfectly legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk. However, if you do, you must yield and give way to pedestrians -- you're at the bottom of the food chain.

If you ride in the road, you're technically at the top; if you need to take up the lane of traffic -- say to make a left-hand turn -- you're allowed, and cars are supposed to let you. In reality people seem more likely to try to run you off the road and/or just plain kill you, but that's the law.


I think this is a big part of why cyclists can be so defensive about their riding habits - they're always at the bottom of the food chain. Cars are on top de facto and pedestrians de jure.

Cyclists get all of the negative effects of traffic laws and none of the positive ones. Come to a stop sign at an empty intersection? You're supposed to stop. Come to an occupied intersection with stop signs for the cross traffic? You should probably still stop to avoid being run over. When a car is supposed to have the right of way, you stop. When you're supposed to have the right of way, you still have to stop. Cars get to stop you to turn right, left, change lanes, and leave an intersection. You can never rely on a car to stop for you for any reason.

Oh, and you can't even occupy a lane!

It's pretty irritating.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:04 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


People were very positive about the Paris system when I visited there last month.
Lots of bikes in use. People hop on them for short trips to avoid changing trains on the metro. Success seems to be related to presence of bike lanes in many parts of the city.

Whereas in Marseille, the streets are so chaotic it would be pretty insane to ride there.

In Paris, no one wears a helmut, which I cannot understand. There will be a plentiful supply of brain-injured patients for neuropsychologists to study. Someone needs to invent a foldable or collapsible one that is more easily carried around when you're off the bike (but doesn't collapse when you're using it).
posted by cogneuro at 1:39 AM on April 28, 2008


I thought Davis, CA (bike capital of the US) did this in the thirties/forties, but I can't find any references online. I did find this thesis by Theodore J Beuhler on what made Davis such a great cycling community.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:01 AM on April 28, 2008


Despite problems with the city's initiative, several Cambridge colleges use this model successfully-- check the bicycle out from the college, use a college-supplied lock, and then return it to a central location. The high concentration of students in colleges makes this an efficient, secure transportation sharing solution.
posted by honest knave at 3:51 AM on April 28, 2008


Which colleges, honest knave? I somehow have never heard of this before.
posted by grouse at 3:55 AM on April 28, 2008


I too am interested in that. If I could find a model that works I might propose it to my own college.
posted by WalterMitty at 5:26 AM on April 28, 2008


Another thread on bike rentals in France.
posted by ardgedee at 5:42 AM on April 28, 2008


Regarding theft, I thought most stolen bikes were parted out. In Davis, teens stole bikes and traded them for meth.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:46 AM on April 28, 2008


The Cambridge scheme failed spectacularly. Apparently, the bikes were ones which the council had collected over the years (i.e. abandoned, illegally locked to certain buildings, stolen but never claimed etc. etc.), and then painted and put out.

Anyway, story goes that they were stolen because the thieves promptly carted them to Oxford and sold them there. Apparently, as two of the big student towns which use bikes, the trade between the two is huge, with bikes being snatched from one and sold in the other. It's common knowledge that you don't leave your bike at Cambridge station for any duration.
posted by djgh at 5:57 AM on April 28, 2008


I was positive that Madison, WI had some sort of bike-sharing program, but I can't find a reference to it online. Possibly it's just the university, or possibly I just made it all up. If anyone knows of one, I'd be really interested to find out more.
posted by desjardins at 7:11 AM on April 28, 2008


I recently let my driver's licence lapse for over three months, wheich meant I had to re-take the written exam, in DC, so I know the local laws pretty well at the moment. In DC, it is legal to ride bikes on the sidewalk, or the road, or a bike lane--there are no restrictions. There are, of course, prescribed right-of-ways, but there aren't offlimits areas.

craichead's post sums up why I like this idea:
I think some people might be attracted to the idea of not having to store, maintain or transport a bike, especially if they don't ride it very often. And if you haven't been on a bike since you were a kid, a $40 investment probably seems less daunting than a $200 one.
Our DC home is barely 1000 square feet. We have three bikes that we use once or twice a year. I'd love to be able to free up that storage space and still have easy access to a bike.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:30 AM on April 28, 2008


A wise man once said "Sidewalk's for regular walkin', not for fancy walkin'". I believe cycling would fall into the "fancy walkin'" category and therefore, I am against it.
posted by electroboy at 9:11 AM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


If bicycle sharing is implemented in SF, will the bicycles for share be fixed with color coordinated deep V wheels? Will you get a tiny billed cycling hat when you pay the membership dues? Don't forget your chrome bag...
posted by anoirmarie at 9:55 AM on April 28, 2008


You'll also be issued a spoke card if you live in SF, and your handlebars will be no wider than eight inches.

Seriously, good idea, it's coming to Philadelphia, too. It's not the yellow bike project, the simple fact is that no one in their right mind would steal one of these (very distinctive) looking bikes. This one is a winner, even with the distateful ads.
posted by fixedgear at 12:55 PM on April 28, 2008


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