Rejoinder to a Glib Venn Diagram

Background Reading

Summary

John Schubert shared a link via Barry Childress.

Funny but also full of glib liberalism.
Here’s the comment I posted on the web site:
Your venn diagram is funny, and today’s so-called “conservatives” deserve a lot of dope slaps, but you leave out the most pertinent facts.
Bike share programs cost about $4,000 per bike plus related infrastructure. Anyone can go buy a serviceable new bike for about $200. Is this being wise with the public’s money? I am not necessarily opposed to the programs, but I would demand a clear-headed analysis of why the other $3800 is money well spent.
Some very good data is being collected in Washington about their bike share program. Trip distances are short, the users tend to be tourists, and I suspect few of the trips replace car trips. To the extent that the bike trips replace walking, they decrease exercise, rather than increase it.
One of the Washington bike share trips has resulted in an accident with about $1 million in medical expenses. Bikes can be ridden in the city with extraordinary levels of safety, but will people who don’t even own a bike know how to ride safely? No.

John Schubert has been a respected writer for publications dealing with cycling over the years. We have corresponded quite often and met at least once in the flesh. There is an interesting article that is circulating as a result of its appearance in New York Magazine. Take the time to read the article. Here are a few of the comments that accompanied that piece:

Wayne Pein As usual John, you whack people upside the head with a knowledge hammer.
8 hours ago · 2

David Morsebut will people who don’t even own a bike know how to ride safely? No.” And here you find the hidden agenda of bike share. Create a broad constituency to lobby for traffic calming. Because nobody bitches about traffic quite as vocally as a scared novice cyclist.
7 hours ago

David Morse Once there is traffic calming for the cars, knowing how to ride safely matters much less.
7 hours ago

John Schubert I do have to acknowledge that the NY program is funded by advertisers. So my comments about public money don’t apply to that city.
6 hours ago

John Schubert David, many of the serious and fatal bike/motor vehicle collisions I’ve reconstructed or investigated involve very slow motor vehicle speeds. (Doorings and coffin corner crushes lead the list of slow ones.) I agree that NY traffic needs a good dose of calming, but it doesn’t follow from that that a novice cyclist will be safe.
6 hours ago

Rick Vosper @David Morse raises some good points. But I think he also misses an important one. Justifying almost $4000/bike with the notion that it’ll bring more non-cyclists to cycling fails to address John/Barry’s main point: assuming we’re going to spend it to aid cycling, is this really the best possible use of that money?
6 hours ago

Leonard Diamond John, your serviceable $200 bike would last about 5 minutes in NYC before its saddle and 1 or 2 wheels were missing. Plus it isn’t built to withstand standing out in the weather 24/7. You could fasten the seat to the frame using a loop of bike chain through the seat stays and also carry a high end u lock as well as a heavy chain/lock (to slow down the thieves after they freeze and crack open the u lock). Or you can use bike share with bikes built specifically to address the environment they will face and not worry about carrying locks or coming out of a meeting to 90% of a bicycle. Also these bikes have built in led lights/generators. There are many folks in NYC who know how to ride bikes but do not own one because they have no place to store it. Using your argument we should require proof of ownership of a car by anyone who wants to rent one.
5 hours ago · 1

John Schubert Methinks I’ve started up a good discussion. Leonard raises some good points. I offer counter-points.
One: you want to encourage cycling? What’s the number-one disincentive to cycling in NYC, and has been my entire life? The risk of theft! Whatever your thoughts on roadway facilities, you need to know you’ll come back to 100 percent of a bike. We know how to reduce that risk to zero. It’s called secure parking and storage. Yet it is a FAR lower priority among the advocates than all this fluffy stuff.
Two: What IS the durability of a bike share bike? In Paris’s bike share program, it was sadly brief. Most of them wound up stolen, or dumped in the Seine river, after a couple months. Since part of the motive is supposed to be energy conservation, the energy required to manufacture the bike means that the energy saving factor is only favorable if the bike lasts a long time.
Three, the non-ownership question is a good one, and a good reason on the plus side of the ledger when evaluating a share program. But also…. let me bring us back to the need for secure parking. Everywhere. For everyone. Near every possible destination. Then the own-versus-not-own question will be decided by personal preference, not by fear of criminals.
4 hours ago · Edited · 1

David Morse John, I guess you’re right – build a safer system, and the universe WILL find you a bigger idiot.
4 hours ago · 1

Bob Eltgroth In Denver today, the BikeShare kiosks happen to be non-functioning due to software, so I can’t get around as I had planned. In Europe, they wouldn’t accept American credit cards because they lack the chip.
4 hours ago · 1

John Riley San Francisco has widely available conventional rental bikes, with the full set of gears necessary for the hills. Seems like these are meeting the needs of visitors. Not sure how, or if, the locals will use share bikes.

Meanwhile in S Miami Beach, the share bikes are very popular with visitors, and probably very useful. S Beach is flat and compact.

Not sure these are right for every place.
2 hours ago · Edited

Leonard Diamond Indoor bike parking has been the subject of legislation during the Bloomberg Administration http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/bicyclists/bikesinbuildings.shtml but the realities of life in the big city make it an imperfect solution. You must use freight elevators which oftentimes stop running at 5PM. In terms of cost, instead of comparing the price to privately owned bikes (and John you are showing our age by saying $200 for a good bike) compare it to other options in mass transit like buses or light rail. It is cheaper, more flexible and faster to implement.
46 minutes ago · 1

David Morse The best bike in NYC is one that’s too crappy to steal. $200 is $20 for the bike itself and $180 for the locks.

A Different Tone Is Being Set Here

As I read through these responses I was struck by the presence of something sorely lacking on the ChainLink Forum, civil discourse. Maybe it is part of the culture of violence in this city but even our conversations with one another border on being verbal assault. And if things escalate we are certain to have the ChainLink equivalent of a “drive-by shooting“. I do not understand this dynamic but there it is.

What one should take away from this set of comments is that it is indeed possible to have “issues” with just about any aspect of the current push for bicycle infrastructure without their being recriminations of those who “differ” with the thinking of the Critical Mass Ride crowd.

What I think Dorothy Rabinowitz was really chafing at was the “over-reaching” nature of the Urban Cycling Movement. This is a group that enjoys ideas regarding Social Engineering and seems desperate to get their ideas implemented during the next few years before the onslaught of another GOP attempt to undermine their ecological agenda.

The Citi-Bike situation is only a symptom of that larger issue. I doubt that she is worried about the logistical nature of the use of these bikes. What she and I think many of us wonder about is whether or not we will end up with the kinds of “regrettable conditions” that led to the dismantling of high-rise housing for low-income residents. In its day this was the Liberal thrust that was to help end the “blight of poverty” that was engulfing the South and West sides of the City of Chicago.

We owe the very existence of the University of Illinois at Chicago to this movement. What is now Little Italy and what was Maxwell Street have been transformed. But the poverty and the crime are still issues. At present the new thrust of the Liberal Establishment is to disperse Section 8 housing across the city (i.e. decentralization) pushing homeless populations out into the suburbs where churches are providing sleeping cots each night. Everyone in the Liberal Landscape was eager to “wash their hands” of Cabrini-Green because it was a reminder as stark as the “War on Drugs” and the “No Child Left Behind” fiascos of the past quarter century that neither Liberal nor Conservative efforts at Social Engineering is always successful.

Following The Money

At the end of the day you always need to know where the monies for these “funny money” projects are coming from. Some of the bike rental efforts are the result of grants from the Federal Government being won. But as with Chicago the folks that hoped to win the contract with the city were shunned in favor of another outside group. Again if I were a “fly on the wall” at the negotiations (assuming that any real ones took place) I would expect to hear that someone “got healthy” as a result of making that deal.

How bike shops feel about having their revenue streams of new bikes impacted by these rentals is anybody’s guess. I suppose they hope that over time people will decide to buy their own private bikes and use them. Or maybe they simply assume that the bulk of the usage will be from tourists (which is my guess). Either way the bike shops in the Loop and in nearby neighborhoods are not getting a cut of the money pie that would otherwise be theirs.

I have considered that the lack of a reasonable rental period (only a half hour) for the Divvy bikes was to make certain that the Chicago Lakefront Trail franchises did not take too much of a hit from the Divvy use. But that is only a guess. What is certain however is that millions of dollars are being spent in creating these rental franchises. And that always means a conflict of interest somewhere.