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:
- Get healthy
- 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.