For 23 hours of 24, most of the world’s cars are in storage, with their steel parts slowly oxidising and their rubber parts perishing. How noble, that cycling is being kickstarted with fleets of bikes that are in constant use. It is particularly the case in New York and Paris that planners could replace the word “cycling” with “bike share” and not even notice the former term missing.
After we have met at our hot-desks and raised our recycled paper cups of kefir to our frugality, I propose we stop and think this one through. Would the automobile industry have grown quite as large had Henry Ford only sold Model-T zip cars?
Were it not for the profits they make from private car ownership, magnified by rusting bodywork and perishing gaskets, car manufacturers could not engage in the cheque book advocacy behind governments’ overspending on parking and roads. I recently got an inside scoop from an official in Boston that the car lobby there helped to fund feasibility studies to redevelop the seaport. If only a bike lobby could pay me to investigate the development potential of such a site, on the proviso my plans showed bike tracks and bike parking, rather than roads and parking for cars.
Bike share is a seeding measure, for kickstarting bicycle transport where there is none. Long term though, it would be better if people spent as much buying bikes as they might otherwise have spent buying cars. We should likewise hope people start paying premium prices for apartments with indoor bike parking, so they can care for their luxury bikes the way they might otherwise have cared for their luxury cars. We should hope peoples wardrobes one day will be brimming with Rapha and Outlier gear.
People become passionate advocates of modes of transport when they are financially invested in using them heavily. At the same time, companies profiting from individuals’ investments, can provide the financial arm of their advocacy. Bike share looks great from a green point of view, and from the point of view of a marxist. However, from a bicycle advocacy standpoint, and looking into the future, it really should be for the tourists.