I Suspect This Won’t Work Either


The idea is a good one, and noble too. I just don’t think it’s gonna work.

It’s been tried before.  And it’s failed before.

The idea, of course, is to make available a large number of bikes to the public so that they can:

  1. Get healthy
  2. Reduce congestion of the road ways

As I mentioned, the idea is a good one, if not sustainable.  Both of the goals of the system are desirable.  We DO want people to become more healthy.  AND we wants our roads to be less congested.  Makes it easier to get around and in a nod to the Greenies, it reduces CO2 emissions.  Good things all, I guess.

And so, based on this idea, a company in Minneapolis is gonna take a shot at a bike-sharing program:

The annual celebration of alternative commuting will culminate Thursday with the official launch of a bike-sharing system in Minneapolis that organizers say will be the largest of its kind in the United States. Nice Ride will feature more than 700 neon green and sky-blue but otherwise sensible bikes docked at 65 solar-powered, automated kiosks around Minneapolis, where anyone with a credit card can check one out for a ride.

The idea, said Bill Dossett, executive director of Nice Ride MN, is to provide short-distance, fuel-free transportation (and exercise) to people who aren’t bike commuters. “What it’s all about is to make it easy for people who got downtown a different way to use a bike to take short trips when they’re downtown,” Dossett said. “They’re for people who might like to take a three-mile trip to go buy something, or meet some friends, go hear music, whatever.”

Sounds cool, huh?  I think so too.

But it doesn’t work:

A popular bicycle rental scheme in Paris that has transformed travel in the city has run into problems just 18 months after its successful launch.

Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen.

They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll.

It turns out that when things are made available to the public for use, the public doesn’t really care for the things:

Bicycle sharing programs without user electronic identification struggle against theft and vandalism. In one program tried in 1993 in Cambridge, United Kingdom, the overwhelming majority of the fleet of 300 bicycles were stolen, and the program was abandoned. A similar result occurred in Edmonton, Alberta, with 95% of the bikes in the People’s Pedal program stolen in the 2008 season.

Now, to be fair, the programs above in Cambridge and Alberta were unregulated programs.  Bikes were simply provided with no means of payment or information gathering [name, number and credit card].

However, even in those programs, there has been less than stellar success:

Hung from lamp posts, dumped in the River Seine, torched and broken into pieces, maintaining the network is proving expensive. Some have turned up in eastern Europe and Africa, according to press reports.

Since the scheme’s launch, nearly all the original bicycles have been replaced at a cost of 400 euros ($519, £351) each.

Various videos have appeared on YouTube showing riders taking the bikes down the steps in Montmartre, into metro stations and being tested on BMX courses.

Now, I am all for industry trying to innovate and solve a problem enticed by nothing more than the voluntary exchange of money for service.  But what scares me is this:

The costs, he said, were “so high that a private business cannot handle it alone, espcially as it’s a problem of public order.

Because it’s seen as a public service, this will soon get turned over to the government for assistance.  And this will be one MORE thing we have to pay for.  And like all government programs, the services and products will be seen as a “cost” to be minimized.  And so service will be lousy.  As always.

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11 comments
  1. Moe said:

    I heard about this thing a few years ago (Atrios is a big fan) and still think it’s intruiging. Mostly it’s about traffic and trying to get a handle on it. We just can’t build more roads in cities. I’m sorry to hear Paris is having problems but actually – if 15K bikes even iwth a 50% loss rate supported 42million trips – just wow! I think there’s a future here.

    Cities all over the world – here too – run buses and subway systems successfully. And those cities couldn’t function or have an economy without those public transit sytems.

    Don’t be afraid of gov’t pino! Let’s add the bikes, eh? (feeling Canadian)

  2. pino said:

    15K bikes even iwth a 50% loss rate supported 42million trips – just wow! I think there’s a future here.

    I know. I was shocked at the trips and the miles too. Though I am afraid it will be a taxpayer subsidy.

    Cities all over the world – here too – run buses and subway systems successfully.

    I think that you and I would define “success” differently. For example, I don’t think the Post Office is a success. But those that debate me on the subject claim that sending a letter from here to there for less than $0.50 American HAS to be a success.

    When I try to remind them that cost and price are different, they glaze over.

    Don’t be afraid of gov’t pino! Let’s add the bikes, eh?

    In my personal life I am as free lovin’ as you can get. I love life and friends. I give and give when I can. But you can not escape the fact that human nature is such that people tend to look out for themselves.

    If human nature would suddenly change such that we all REALLY looked out for our brothers and sisters, I would be FIRST in line for Socialism.

    However, given that we are animals at best, the only way that makes sense to organize a society is capitalism.

    In Liberty,
    -p

    Corney huh? ;^)

    • Moe said:

      [Cities all over the world – here too – run buses and subway systems successfully.

      I think that you and I would define “success” differently. For example, I don’t think the Post Office is a success. But those that debate me on the subject claim that sending a letter from here to there for less than $0.50 American HAS to be a success.

      When I try to remind them that cost and price are different, they glaze over.]

      Sounds like you are defining success only as financial success. Is not a garden that blooms a success? Isn’t a Grand Canyon that thrills my great nephew a huge success – especially since it ignited an interest in geology and he might be the one who solves something important to all of us?

      Nobody is going to build highways unless they can charge drivers and that is unthinkable in a modern society – they used ot do that in Medieval England.

      I need to bring you accross to the light.

      • pino said:

        Nobody is going to build highways unless they can charge drivers and that is unthinkable in a modern society

        Of course we charge drivers. And other people.

        It’s not the fact that we charge people for our roads that upsets you; it’s the method.

        Is not a garden that blooms a success?

        If the garden expands to the point that it puts the homeowner out of a home; no.

        Isn’t a Grand Canyon that thrills my great nephew a huge success

        Stretchin’ ;^)

  3. Moe said:

    [It’s not the fact that we charge people for our roads that upsets you; it’s the method.]

    ??

    The method I’m approving is paying for it in my taxes.

    • pino said:

      The method I’m approving is paying for it in my taxes.

      Right. That’s what I said.

      You are okay with charging drivers. It’s the method of assessing the tax that bothers you.

      It sounds like you would rather not establish a toll on a road. Rather, you are happier taxing people in some other manner.

      In your method, I am being taxed to pay for roads in ways that don’t tie the money to the road. Inn a toll scenario, the more I use the road, the more I pay to maintain them. Or, in reverse, the more I pay to use a road, the less I’ll use it which will create the situation where the road needs less work.

      • Moe said:

        Oh this is way to idealistic, too utopian. It wouldn’t work – traffic really needs to stop on every friggin’ road to pay a toll? Do I have to stop and pay when I move from a county road, to a state road, to a federal road, or pay to get into my neighborhood? Where do you draw the line?

      • pino said:

        It wouldn’t work – traffic really needs to stop on every friggin’ road to pay a toll?

        For us, rush hour is from 7.30 until 9.00. If you told me that to drive during those hours I would have to pay a toll, I may shift my driving to 9.15. Or, try to work from home a little more.

        I am not an expert in tax creation, but there are many MANY ways that we could tie road USE to road TAX that would result in people driving smarter.

  4. Moe said:

    Pino, we already paid taxes to BUILD the roads and pay taxes to maintain the road.

    But there is a disconnect – so your point of people getting to make the connection might be addressed by using more bonds, very specific bonds, to finance the constuction.

    • pino said:

      Pino, we already paid taxes to BUILD the roads and pay taxes to maintain the road.

      Right. Now imagine a world where the people who USE the roads are taxed to BUILD the roads.

      When the hammer maker delivers hammers to ACE, they’ll be taxed on their use. That tax will be passed on to us, the buyer. And THAT is okay because we benefit from the road by having hammers delivered around the corner.

      • Moe said:

        And that hammer maker got his raw materials from extraction industries, most of whom are extracting OUR metals and minerals from OUR land which we lease to them so they can extract and then resell to us.

        It’s a symbiotic relationship between the taxpayer and the industry.

        But I understand what you’re saying. I’m saying I see roads as more like a untility – something that is necessary for all citizens (except for some in the cities, for which government financed mass transit substitutes). We don’t withhold the services of the FDA or the Defense Departmnet. Shall we each defend ourselves and build our own airplanes?

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