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The Public Includes Everybody


Minneapolis government is about to vaporize 1.75 million dollars in the name of bicycle transportation:

The Minneapolis Bike Share Program will create the nation’s largest municipal bike-share system right here in Minneapolis. Plans call for a thousand bikes to be available in the areas of Downtown, Uptown, and the University of Minnesota campus.

The local rainbow-and-unicorns crew are following their Parisian brethren—off a cliff. Turns out that not everyone sees the bikes as a gift of urban convenience worthy of repsect:

Since the city's Vélib' bicycle-sharing program began nearly two years ago, Alexandre Wente has made a point of cycling from his apartment to his office at least once a week.

The trip costs him nothing, other than the aggravation of seeing how others treat the free bicycles.

“I've seen bikes with just the frame left, but docked at a Vélib' station,” said Mr. Wente, a 32-year-old real-estate salesman.

“I've seen the baskets twisted partly off. I've seen kids ride them down stairs to the river,” he said, as he unlocked a bicycle from a station near the Place Léon Blum in southeast Paris. “It's like people can't help themselves.”

As it approaches its second anniversary, the Paris Vélib' bicycle-sharing program is proving as popular with thieves and vandals as it is with commuters.

Since the program started in July, 2007, 8,000 of the bicycles have been stolen, and nearly 1,400 people were arrested for Vélib' theft just last year.

Police have retrieved about 100 of the purloined bicycles from the depths of Paris canals and the Seine River. Some have been spotted on balconies. There have been reports that a few turned up, mysteriously, on the streets of other European cities. But the fate of most of the missing bicycles is unknown.

At the same time, 16,000 bicycles have been vandalized.

The advertising company JCDecaux, which operates the program in exchange for a 10-year contract for city billboards, said that the damage from vandalism is so extensive that half of the vandalized bicycles have had to be replaced.

Vélib' was also not supposed to cost taxpayers anything, at least for the duration of the JCDecaux contract. Now, under pressure from the advertising company, city council has decided to cover €400 of the cost of replacing each damaged bike – an estimated expenditure of €1.6-million a year.

“Vélib' was supposed to make urban travel more civilized,” lamented the newspaper Le Monde in an editorial last week. “It has increased uncivilized behaviour. No one expected that.”

Really? How naiëve are these people? Do they really think their good intentions will neutralize the destructive elements in society?

Yes, I’m afraid they do.

H/T: Division of Labour