A friend of mice sent me this link to the New York Times about the Paris Velib bike renting program. It is not being called a failure or even a loss of funds [they are not providing those numbers], but loosing 80% of the bikes due to vandalism!
Pretty sad, but I am not surprised one bit. I tried to make a bike sharing program in Somerville in 1996. I was trying to do something like the yellow bike program like in Holland [my bikes were orange]. I compiled a bunch of bikes and donations. Had an auction to raise money to fix up the bikes. Myself and some volunteers spent many hours refurbishing the bikes and painting them. A story was written about the program in the Somerville Journal and it had generated a lot of excitement. When the bikes were ready [about 12 of them]I did not have a place to store the bikes and left them outside of Independent Fab [where I was working at the time]. I thought that if they were stolen that was ok, because I just wanted people to ride them.
The next day I came to work only to find that every single one of them had been destroyed. Frames bent, wheels mangled…toast. I spent the better part of the day taking off what parts were still useable, cramming them into my car to take them to the scrap yard, in multiple trips.
This was common with almost every other bike share program I have every heard of. Amsterdam, Austin, Portland OR and ME…The only one that worked was in Burlington VT and I think that is because it is a small town. Not sure if they still do there anymore?
The Bike Share programs like Velib and the Bixi system in Montreal, were to combat this problem, by having a non-valuable and non-usable parts type of bike. And with a rack system to keep them safe, as well as charging a fee to use the bikes. I have not looked into how these systems are working out in Montreal, but I would say that Paris is full of problems? Washington DC has a new system too and I will need to look into that. We are to have a Bixi system installed in Boston soon and I do not think it will work and I am [at this point] not really a fan of these systems. However I will say that anything that is bike related improvement is fine with me and I will take what I can get. I think the funds could be spent in other areas to improve bicycling for the public good. I mean that is the idea right? That these bike share [rental] systems are to convert the average citizen to choose bicycling over driving their cars. That these bikes provided at little cost to the user and positioned in convenient local will inspire people to use them.
I do not know what these systems cost, but it must be a lot! The Velib bikes were quoted to cost $3,500 for each bike! It is probably to late to stop the Boston Bixi program, but I think the money would be better spent in three areas.
One is that City of Boston could contract me set the city up with a bike factory, hiring inner city people [young and old] and providing bicycles for the citizens of Boston. Bikes that they would own [and take care of].
Two The bikes could be sold or provided on a sliding scale. Either given out, traded for labor, sold at cost etc… after people apply for them, providing a tax statement and proof of residence etc…
Three Investing in road improvements with on road seperated cycle paths, bikes lanes and intersection improvements along with good safe parking spots [lots of them]. No one is going to ride there bike if they do not feel safe.
A bike providing system sort of like Habitat for Humanity would be a good start. Ownership provides a much more rewarding experience. Now my system is geared more to the lower-income part of Boston and not the Chic and upwardly mobile, however it could be built to supply both. The City of Boston bike factory could make anything. It does not have to only make the basic transport bike… What would be more patriotic than buying a hand-built bicycle from the city of Boston, at its full cost. Providing jobs for the people who feel left out, providing bicycles for the people who would other wise want to vandalize the system [because they were left out of the system].
I thought about making a proposal to send the city of Boston last year, but I have been too busy trying to stay in business and dealing with my own business issues. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a good proposal and I have never done anything like that before….but maybe? I mean otherwise all this money is being spent and leaving the state right? If they just made the bikes themselves and hired citizens of Boston…all of the funds would stay in the city and with its citzens.