Bike Share is Amazing and Nobody’s Happy
Leave it to Louis C.K. to say it best.
My wife likes to say that there are some people in the world who are so inclined to find fault with everything that they could win a $500 million lottery jackpot and still gripe about how much is taken out in taxes. To read some of the early criticism of bike share by bloggers and some of the commenters over at Streetsblog, you might understand what she means.
Is it disappointing that bike share won’t be everywhere immediately when it rolls out this summer? You bet. Are there criticisms one can make about the pricing structure, especially when compared to other cities? If you want. And is the extremely unlikely case of an epic four-hour bike share ride to City Island shockingly expensive? Sure. But so is a taxi ride from New York to Massachusetts. Just ask Tom Hanks.
But guess what, citizens of New York? After watching Paris, London, Boston, DC, Minneapolis, Denver, and countless other cities win the bike share lottery we’re hitting our own jackpot, even if it means some taxes will being taken out, so to speak. But compare where we are right now to the early days of Bloomberg’s third term, when not just bike share but the future of bike lanes in New York City seemed completely uncertain, and you’ll see just how far we’ve come.
In the winter of 2009 and 2010 we were in the thick of a tabloid-induced “bikelash.” In 2011 the Times published a feature story on Janette Sadik-Khan that came to bury her, not praise her. That same year, Christine Haughney wrote that bike share was “plagued by questions” and reported that “Community board members have raised concerns about whether bike-share kiosks and racks would encroach on precious sidewalk areas, or swallow parking spaces,” conjuring images of six hundred Article 78 lawsuits, one for each bike share station.
A lot has changed between 10:59 AM and 11:01 AM yesterday. We now know who’s sponsoring bike share, the color of the bikes, exactly how much membership will cost, a little more about where the stations will go and when parts of the system will be online. The fact that bike share may come to certain neighborhoods later than expected is a heck of a lot better than the previous fear that it wouldn’t come at all. And about those precious parking spaces? Community board members have figured out that using them to site bike share stations makes a lot more sense than using them to store private automobiles.
Cycling advocates and enthusiasts should not take so much of an inside baseball look at bike share that they can’t see the progress we’ve made. We could be fighting about lines of paint on a street or moving parked cars six feet from the curb, but instead we’re arguing over the difference between bike share’s $9.95 day pass and an annual membership. If I took a time machine back to the darkest days of anti-bike hysteria, the 2010 me would be astounded that such nitpicky arguments would one day be possible in New York City. That is, after the 2010 me recovered from the mind-numbing realization that time travel is actually possible.
New York is about to begin an unprecedented and transformational experiment in redefining how our streets work. Bike share is not simply about putting bikes on the street — it is about fixing streets so that they work for people. The fact that every detail of the system is not happening in a way that pleases everyone all of the time should be so minor a concern as to hardly even register in the discussion right now. Bike share is coming–slowly at first and then all at once–and it’s going to change everything.