“The warnings were dire.”
Tom Vanderbilt has a great take on the heated reaction to bike share we’ve seen in New York lately, relating it to one of the many changes this city has seen during its esteemed history.
Insofar as they alter entrenched travel patterns, change urban landscapes, and carry people into parts of town where they previously hadn’t been carried, new transit systems by their very nature tend to be magnets for opposition. (And here it should be noted that Citi Bike is perhaps the least disruptive transit system that has ever been adopted by New York City, at least in terms of its construction and operation.) In its earliest phase, the debate over Citi Bike appeared to echo the debate over another profound change to New York City’s streetscape a half-century ago: the installation of on-street parking meters. At the time, critics declaimed them as “unconstitutional.” Lawsuits were mounted. The warnings were dire. There would be vandalism! People would try to cheat the system! The meters would only make traffic worse! Today, of course, parking meters are universally viewed as simply an irrefutable cost of driving a car in a crowded city, and the only real debate left is over how much to charge per 15 minutes.
His description of how Citi Bike fits into the taxonomy of social change is particularly astute. It’s been interesting to see New York move from the “controversial” and “progressive” stages during the PPW-era bikelash to today’s “obivious” stage with bike share.
We’ll probably backtrack a little into silliness the minute some poor schlub doesn’t read the pricing structure and gets hit with a $200 multi-hour bike share ride — “Bike Snare!” as the Post will title the story — but the inevitability of such a moment proves that Citi Bike is already an established part of the New York City landscape before it has even launched. To paraphrase Tom, the only real debate left is be over how much to charge per 45 minutes.