Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vive la Liberté!

I'm of several minds on this story. I've been following the Vélib since the program was first introduced in Paris last year and, as someone who has grown increasingly dissatisfied with the internal combustion engine and all that it has wrought on the world, I'm a big fan of the idea. If I lived in Paris (and you know I wish I did), I would almost certainly have a subscription and use the Vélib bikes. On the other hand, not a day goes by that I don't curse a bicyclist here in NYC for speeding through red lights, narrowly missing pedestrians in an intersection, riding on the sidewalk, improperly parking their bike—there's hardly a traffic law in the city that isn't flaunted daily by cyclists, and I'm sure the same is true in Paris. To be fair, there's hardly a pedestrian traffic law that I and millions of other New Yorkers don't flaunt, but when we are scofflaws, we primarily put our own lives at risk; cyclists endanger others far more than themselves.

Ultimately, I think it's a great idea and I would support it being implemented here. I can't imagine it will be since the maintenance, replacement and infrastructure for the program is all supported by advertising—something we already have an overabundance of in NYC. I think that's actually a greater obstacle than the theft issues: I've no doubt that bicycles would be stolen, but since the Vélib bikes are more workmanlike than sexy, not in the numbers one might imagine. I may be cynical when it comes to capitalism, but I don't see even the millions of dollars in profits the French company is making as being ginormous enough for most risk-averse American corporations to take on the job.

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