Monday, November 10, 2008

Hey Buddy, Can I Borrow A Bike?

So after reading this article in the New York Times, bastion of the untrustworthy liberal media elite, and was wondering if bike-sharing could work in our own city of Hartford. As the article notes,
"In increasingly green-conscious Europe, there are said to be only two kinds of mayors: those who have a bicycle-sharing program and those who want one."

What if our own mayor shared such sentiments? Numerous bike-sharing programs are enjoying tremendous success across the pond and two have already been recently established on this continent (one in Washington D.C. and one in Montreal). The entities that have established these programs note numerous difficulties but argue they are far outweighed by benefits that include reduced traffic congestion and smog, lower demands on infrastructure, and a healthier populace among others. Most importantly there is evidence that these programs are far less expensive than other forms of public transportation once the bugs are worked out (the article notes that a city fleet can be had at a cost similar to purchasing a single bus).

Similar programs are also being experimented with on college campuses where administrators are dealing with increasing difficulties accommodating the needs of our pervasive auto-centric culture.

So what think ye humble readers? Is Hartford too sedentary, too stagnant, too disinterested in bicycles to make a program work or make it even be worth the investment? Would we see the same problems that college programs note with bicycles being abandoned and poorly treated? Or is Mayor Perez far too in love with his parking lots to allow such a program be initiated?



Nomad said...

We have three older, but solid, bikes from when I was a kid that we'd love to donate to such an effort. I bought a new bike when I got back into the sport, but these older models would be great for basic commuting around a city. I'm willing to bet there are hundreds of people in CT with similar stories, and nowhere to give the old bikes but Goodwill (who doesn't need any more).

Musegal said...

My neighbors and I have a "community bike" that we share in addition to our own bikes. It was left by the last residents so we decided to keep it in the garage and anyone (out of about 10 of us) can use it. Although I haven't used it yet, because I have my own ride I haven't heard any fights or complaints yet!

Brendan said...

I think these programs are great, but the commuting patterns of the area wouldn't accommodate something like this.

Karma said...

This crossed my mind as I read the article and though about its application to the Beat. Unfortunately as of now there isnt the demand for people to move around Hartford so much as get in and out of it. Then I wondered if perhaps an arterial (almost trolley-like) system would be functional. One that positioned the stations at convenient increments along roads such as Albany Ave, Asylum, Farmington, Wethersfield Etc, which would facilitate people moving in the directions most commonly traveled. Or if there were stations outside the city where commuter lots were located so commuter could leave there cars outside the city and travel in.

Rich said...

I have a lot of thoughts on this. During my Euro-trip in August, I had the opportunity to check out in great detail how the Velib system works in Paris, and came out completely blown away. There's a photo essay of my experience coming at some point...

After my time in France, I've read a bit about the efforts in Montreal and DC. One thing I've noticed is that for bike-sharing to be successful, you absolutely need two things: 1) an existing, extensive bicycle infrastructure and 2) massive investment/funding and commitment from the government. This is why you see sharing programs in micro-communities like university campuses become viable. Frankly, Hartford is lacking in both of these requirements.

An interesting thing is that the cities with the largest bike cultures (Amsterdam for example) don't really have a need for bike sharing. Everyone already has a bike. There, rent-a-bike businesses do well by renting to tourists.

The biggest problem you have to solve besides the infrastructure is how to protect against theft and vandalism. That's where the bulk of investment has to come up with some system that works. And it's not a one-time check-writing exercise either. Maintenance of the hardware is an ongoing concern.

There are lots of sites about bike-sharing:

The Bike-sharing Blog is excellent and thorough.

This site has a lot of info and advice on starting various types of public bike programs.

and of course, check out the links on the wikipedia page.

mikemathew said...

I am one step closer to getting my bike license, I have registered for a riding course and am now two days in. I am picking up lots of good tips and also learning about some bad habits I had. I got in trouble today for putting my right foot down at a stop instead of my left foot, they also dont like it if you put both feet down. Also got in trouble for having the middle of my foot on the footpeg instead of the ball of my foot (i thought that one was a bit silly). Most of the instructors are amazing (one is a champion roadracer that teaches racing schools in california) , but there is one that I am not a big fan of (the one that made me feel like an idiot for putting my right foot down even though everything else was perfect). There is no real point to this thread other than that I am excited that I am one step closer to getting my license and hopefully some day a bike!



Brendan said...


I can't even figure out if this is spam or not.

Ben said...


Anonymous said...

Yeah, that guy's talking about motorcycles....

I'd like to take issue with something nomad said. I think Goodwill (or Salvation Army, etc.) would be glad to have any bike donations. They often know who needs bicycles for transportation and can get the bikes to them. Give 'em up.

Also, the bikes used in these sharing operations are usually outfitted with unique parts that you can't put on the average bike. They're also very adjustable to accomodate a variety of people sizes.