Thursday, December 12, 2013

No More Bike Share?

The week is biking news has been frightening, good, and weird.

Does the end of Barclay's sponsorship of London's bike share portend something terrible for the future of bikes? The mere thought is frightening.  London cyclists tell me that the mere 25 million Pound Sterling given by Barclays is a fraction of the cost of London's bike share program.  Or does the Barclay's pull out just mean that a financial power house, reeling from the Libor scandal, has had its original contract with the city examined a little more closely?  By 2015, Barclay's is out of the bike sponsoring business.  Just as well since Londoners have informed me the whole program is named Boris bikes for London's seemingly eccentric mayor.  But who will underwrite a biking system in a city plagued by cyclists' deaths in 2013?  I would like to nominate Cadbury, the chocolate and convenience food conglomerate famous for its Milk Tray and seductive purple wrapper.  After all, Cadbury has sponsored bikes for Africa in the past.  Why not London?  Or how about steady and reliable Marks and Spencers, with their cashmere cardigans, Twiggy clothing line, and predictable food halls?  They seem like a safe bet for sponsorship.  M&S seems as sturdy and English as Barbara Woodhouse, or James Herriot.  Maybe Prince Charles, sustainability advocate and heir-to-be-skipped-I'd-wager, should re-purpose his . . . salary (?) to bike share sponsorship.  It would be better than establishing those little organic vegetable growing manors that make it seem like he is secretly wishing for a return to feudalism.  A new feudalism, though, with Lords who know more about modern art's merit-lessness and the ills of fast food, where Lords can impose their will on toiling serfs.  But if the monarch in a real monarchy backed biking, would that be so terrible?  Not at first.  Not unless he became crazed and declared "off with their heads."  It would certainly help Prince Charles' image to be the backer of bikes.  And it would go a long way to answering the question, "What the hell does that guy do all day anyway?"

If the Barclay's "loss" weren't enough for Londoners, the Metropolitan Police were apparently ticketing cyclists in dark foggy weather who were riding without lights this week.  Wait.  Given the numbers of fatalities this year is that a bad thing?

Here in the former colonies, the news for bike share is all good.  Bike share programs are extremely successful state side.  Despite the troubles with Bixi in Montreal and fears in San Francisco, in Chicago and Washington, D.C., bike share programs are only growing.  I  have almost had to engage in in unpleasantries when too many people have converged on the docks.

The Burrough of Brooklyn is facing some anti-bike weirdness by contrast.  Bike lane haters have used lies, damn lies and statistics, as Mark Twain said, to try to get the city to remove dedicated bike lanes.  The data the haters have been citing, an increase in the number of accidents, does not actually support that idea that the bike lanes were the cause.  In fact, those accidents were overwhelmingly car-on-car.  These pesky facts have not slowed the anti-bike movement one bit.  But with triple the number of cyclists from four years ago in Brooklyn, I would say the numbers - the statistics if you will - are in the favor of the lanes.  The odds are not with those looking for one more piece of evidence that the demise of Western civilization at the hands of hipsters riding bikes and sipping pour-over coffee.  If the disgruntleds would simply ride a bike, they would be less likely to have dementia, according to a new medical study.  Then they would be less likely to spend their days railing against bicycle infrastructure, or they would come up with better facts.  Perhaps Brooklyn cyclists can start a "Give a Grump a Bike" program as a sort of long-term investment in the future of cycling infrastructure.

With the threatened demise of bike shares, and the constant assaults on bike lanes, we must ask ourselves, how can we brainwash . . . uh, er, I mean influence the young to appreciate the value of cycling and want to ride?  Take that handy baby stroller, usually the size of a lunar landing craft, and turn it into a bicycle for kids.  At least one company has designed a stroller-to-tricycle that can also cut down on the piles and heaps of junk people are accumulating in their homes.  The images in the Youtube video are beautiful.

If you are really into efficiency, reducing, reusing and cycling, this week's news continues to be good.  You can now get a bike that performs photosynthesis while you ride to clean the air.  I am wondering what impact something like this would have on the climate, and my guess is not much.  I would rather see people giving up their cars than bikes doing double duty for the climate.

Lastly, a little note in this week's blog about the death of another famous cyclists.  Bad news indeed.  This time it was Milton Olin, the former Napster exec, who was hit by a police car while he was riding in SoCal.  The reporting on this strongly suggests that the driving deputy might have been looking as his mobile digital transporter or texting.  Nothing could have been so important on either of those devices that it cost a good cyclist his life.

Oh, and it's almost Christmas.  Support your local bike store, buy your loved one a custom-made-in-America bike.  Help keep cycling a growing part of the U.S. culture.
Shout outs to The Daily Rider, Bicycle Space, The Bike Rack, City Bikes, and Capitol Hill Bikes.

So if I see you in the bike lane, or on a bike share bike anywhere in the world, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

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