Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité...and Free Bikes
The AP reports today that Paris has chosen an outdoor advertising firm, JCDecaux, to operate a free bicycle service in the city. The service will provide "thousands" of bikes to city residents and visitors in an effort to decrease car-based pollution. Amsterdam ("The Bike Capital of Europe") has a similar program but its success may be based on that city's compact size. How will Parisian planners get bicyclists from the suburbs into the heart of the city? Will there be fights over more bike lanes? Will there be other traffic-calming measures taken to increase bicyclists' safety? Does anyone else want to go to Paris on a fact-finding mission to find out?
My curiosity is piqued by the fact that the program is being rolled out by the ad agency JCDecaux (as reported by other news outlets). Clear Channel was also in the running for this gig, which, if you're familiar with their company, gives some stark-reality hints about the corporate requirements and ad revenue intentions behind this free bike program. In fact, Clear Channel has decided to fight the decision to award the program to JCDecaux. Doing that won't be cheap, and they're not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.
I'll be curious to see how these concepts combine in the eventual implementation of the program. I'm not saying it's evil or I'm aginn' it. I'm just saying - it will be interesting, and I predict outdoor advertising will surely be involved somehow.
Will these things be offset by the reduction in motorized traffic, increased bike advocacy, and better health for Paris cyclists? That would be good, indeed. I hope it works out for all.
Sumanitu taka owaci
We had a local "Yellow Bike" program like that, small scale. If you found a Yellow Bike that was "unoccupied," you could use it. People took the donated bikes home and kept them.
They changed the program. For $25 you could have a Yellow Bike of your own, free maintenance. That ended, too, because the volunteers couldn't pay for the small shop they used. Had to admire their heart.
I got a great Motobecane Grand Touring bike from them, though. Still have it, but it has that French type threading in the BB, so maintenance will be problematic.