Lawrence, KS - Events Local News Groups Contact
Bike-Sharing Is Caring
By Indy Media / filmsforaction.org
Dec 31, 2007
From InTheseTimes.com: Bike-sharing programs that provide cheap access to inner-city bicycles are popular all over Europe, and Beijing, and even American cities are catching on.


While working the graveyard shift in a University of Virginia computer lab 13 years ago, Paul DeMaio had dreams of the open road. On a whim, the avid cyclist and environmentalist entered “public bikes” into a search engine and discovered images of Bycyklen, Copenhagen’s then-new bike-sharing service. One glimpse and DeMaio was hooked. “The idea just blew me away,” he says. “This was it.”

DeMaio arranged to study in Denmark, where he absorbed as much about bike-sharing culture as possible. Convinced that the idea would appeal to Americans, he created MetroBike LLC, a bicycle planning and bike-sharing consulting company based in Washington D.C. And now, more and more cyclists and legislators are turning their attention to DeMaio’s cause. “We’ve come a long way,” he says. “Bike-sharing really has gotten a lot of attention.”

Essentially, bike-sharing programs provide cheap access to bicycles, mostly for inner-city transportation. In the late ’60s, some Europeans placed donated bikes across cities like Amsterdam and Milan for residents to ride free of charge, hoping to provide citizens with an ecologically friendly mode of travel. But vandalism and theft sank nearly all of the early campaigns. Today, technology—such as electronic payment, tracking and locking systems—has helped reduce crime and revive bike-sharing efforts worldwide.

The Vélib in Paris, a new venture owned and operated by the city but co-financed by the JCDecaux advertising corporation in exchange for exclusive rights to on-street advertising, has quickly become the most comprehensive and successful bike-sharing program in the world. Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe launched the Vélib in July by placing 10,000 bicycles at 750 stations throughout the city. For a small credit card fee (29 euros a year, or about $43), Parisians can swipe the card at any bike rack, grab an available two-wheeler, ride it across town and leave it for others at their new destination. Bike rental is free for the first 30 minutes, which accounts for 80 percent of all rides, and only a marginal cost for each additional half-hour. Officials intend to double the fleet by 2008 as more than 6 million rides were recorded in the first three months, with every bike being rented an average of 10 times a day, according to a report in BusinessWeek.

While the Vélib is the largest program to date, Paris is not alone in its cycling enthusiasm. Various cities across the globe have implemented successful bike-sharing systems in recent years, including Barcelona, Stockholm and Berlin. Beijing, known as the Kingdom of Bicycles, recently unveiled plans to unleash 50,000 bikes in time for the 2008 Olympics.

Bike-sharing fever has even spread to the United States, a country lacking a robust bike culture but one where car-sharing has thrived and biking is becoming more mainstream. In San Francisco, the city Board of Supervisors is set to vote on a contract with Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. that would establish a bike-sharing program in return for advertising rights on transit shelters. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley visited Paris in September to test the Vélib in action and is considering a similar program for the Windy City. New York City, Portland and Washington, D.C. officials have also expressed interest.

Margo O’Hara, communications director for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, points out that reducing dependency on the automobile—and the carbon emissions, pollution, and traffic it creates—is the most obvious attribute of bike-sharing, but a well-designed system has other virtues. “The cool thing about bicycling,” she says, “is that it’s public. You’re able to talk to people on your commute to work, as opposed to being in this confined vacuum of a car.” Bike-sharing also provides a cheap, sustainable appendage to under-funded and overcrowded mass transit systems. “Bike-sharing is not going to replace bus or rail transit,” says DeMaio, “but it’s really complimentary … because it does extend these other modes of transit’s reach.”

Bike-sharing certainly isn’t perfect. Safety is a concern, especially in cities lacking bike-friendly infrastructure. Helmets are generally not provided with a rental, and theft, while complicated by user electronic identification, still poses a financial risk.

There’s also the possibility that people who could benefit from such services—namely, low-income people who need reliable transportation but have problems affording it—will not be served, especially in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C. that are highly segregated, both economically and racially. DeMaio stresses that, for the programs to be most effective, local legislators must distribute bike-sharing resources equitably. “It’s up to the government to ensure that the stations are placed in underserved neighborhoods,” he says, “to ensure that people of all backgrounds … have access to this mode of transit.”

But those are small concerns for an overwhelmingly popular movement. “I think the demand is there,” says O’Hara. “And you can see in Chicago: The more acceptable it is to bike, the more people bike.”

Adam Doster is a freelance writer based in Chicago. He is a frequent contributor to In These Times.
0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 14,149 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State
George Lakey · 12,496 views today · Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 10,095 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 6,731 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
The Fire Within
Words by Sophie Scholl - Illustrations by Gavin Aung Than · 6,033 views today · Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) was a German activist who is famous for speaking out against the Nazi regime. Scholl was a member of a protest group called The White Rose, which...
The Most Astounding Fact about the Universe
3 min · 5,323 views today · This is Neil Degrasse Tyson's response when asked to describe the most astounding fact about the universe. Background music is the cinematic orchestra - To build a home.
The London Anarchist Group Squatting Mansions to Fight Homelessness
6 min · 5,285 views today · London squatting activists ANAL (Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians) are squatting empty multi-million pound buildings and opening them up to the homeless.
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 5,158 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 4,358 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 3,312 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
Voices of Standing Rock
49 min · 3,236 views today · Short stories told by water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Part 1 - Introduction: Since mid-August 2016, thousands have set up camp near the Standing Rock Sioux...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 2,903 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Redneck Revolt Presents: A Message to the Patriot Movement
6 min · 2,748 views today · Over the past few weeks, Redneck Revolt has been communicating with a former member of a III% Patriot Militia based out of Ohio. Peter made contact with our organization after...
To Change Everything, Start Everywhere
8 min · 1,837 views today · To Change Everything, Start Everywhere! The case for complete self-determination—a guide for the furious, the curious, and the pure of heart. To Change Everything: An...
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 1,834 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
The Lessons of Standing Rock
Michael Emero · 1,692 views today · In mid-November of 2016, I was a Water Protector at Standing Rock. At first my goal was to play investigative journalist; documenting then writing about every detail for my...
From Sanctuary City to Liberated City
Frank Lara · 1,386 views today · In just one week, with several strokes of a pen, Trump unleashed upon the working class in the U.S. an attack not seen in decades. From his attack on the flawed Affordable Care...
Transition From Caterpillar to Butterfly as Analogy for Social Change
4 min · 1,224 views today · An exceprt from Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview in which Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about the fractal nature of reality and compares the current global awakening and the...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 1,193 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Charles Eisenstein: The Two Great Stories That Give Meaning to Our Lives
6 min · 1,041 views today · What matters in life? Who are we? Every culture has answers to these questions. And the way we answer them has profound effects on the health of people and planet. This is a...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Bike-Sharing Is Caring