Happy Spring, everyone. I would first like to apologize for my long (now entire-Winter) hiatus. I promise that I have a great deal of content that I’ve been saving up to share and that I’m going to be back in full force this Season.
A few months ago a Danish friend made me aware of the following article:
Having marked it planning on sharing it later, I’m disappointed to also share two unfortunate changes that should also be reported…though the article briefly expresses a Danish sense of pleasant surprise at the success of New York’s bicycle sharing scheme, we in NYC have recently learned that the Citibike program is sadly in financial trouble and strangely our new Mayor has rejected several influxes of capital that could save it. The understanding is that the system will continue to operate just fine and attempt to change (and increase) costs to consumers to balance its budget. Across the “pond,” Copenhagen’s own bike sharing scheme was axed by the City Government last year, for lack of funding and, seemingly, interest. The above article mentions some things that were to be implemented in Copenhagen, that were noticed in NYC, but that of course never came to fruition.
I’m not too concerned about “the future of cycling” in New York. I have and will continue to convey the positive impact that the Citibike program has had on the City and how things have already changed for the better, even over the past few years prior. What’s striking here, though, is the stark contrast in bicycle cultures between New York City and Copenhagen that produced, seemingly, the same result for bike share schemes. I’ve written previously on how bike sharing is sort of like a “gateway drug” (to make an ugly comparison); if people are introduced to urban cycling in an easy, fun way, they might increase their use of bikes around town and possibly buy one themselves to use even more. The present situation begs the question, though, as to whether or not, regardless of outcome, these schemes are sustainable, inasmuch as I think that they should be/have been propped up. In Copenhagen, a bicycle culture has existed for far longer than the bike sharing scheme. The bike share program was put in place to perhaps make it even easier for marginalized groups (even tourists!) to cycle around the City. In New York, the target demographic was more broad, with the goal being that everyone should have the chance to easily ride around and see how wonderful it is to cycle in NYC. But is it possible that they have or are beginning to exhaust their usefulness? And that this might not necessarily be a bad thing?
Of course, I cannot speak for a real Copenhagener, but I doubt many natives will mourn the loss of the bike share program that many probably knew little about. Everyone has their own bicycle in Copenhagen. I hope that New York’s Citibike program does last, though, even if only for long enough such that people are finally comfortable cycling around town. If these systems in general are not sustainable in the long-term, their impact has to be huge and immediate, which fortunately I see Citibike as having had thus far.