Mayor “Deep V” Announces Bikeshare, Bike Giveaway

Well, that’s what my wife Gina has called Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa since a tumble off his bike a couple of years ago spurred him to promote bike safety and bikeways in a big way, as part of his legacy as LA’s “transportation mayor.”

“Deep V” called a meeting at the Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles—where as a neighborhood kid decades ago he attended and later worked—to announce a bikeshare program coming to our city. The announcement was spiced up by a giveaway of bikes and helmets to kids who had completed a safety course at the club, bringing in LA Clippers player Caron Butler (well-known as a serial bike donor) to help out. (They also gave away helmets sponsored by the Avis/Budget car rental companies.)

The company that will be running the bikeshare program is Bike Nation, an as-yet unproven player in the field—this will be one of their first implementations. However, they will be doing it on their own nickel, using proprietary made-in-US bikes and modular kiosks that they claim will be easy to set up and move around according to demand.

The only thing they are asking of the city for now is expedited permitting—but it is obvious that once it is in place, its one-of-a-kind system will effectively block out other companies who may have wanted to serve LA, since the bikes and kiosks would be incompatible.

Still, their offer to provide unsubsidized bike sharing appears to have let our normally timid city actually try something a little progressive in bicycle policy, so let’s hope it works out.

Unfortunately it feeds the motorheads’ misconception that cars “pay their way,” while bikes mostly don’t, when in fact all transportation systems—including private driving!—are subsidized as public goods.

In fact I was recently surprised to learn that even in Europe, where driving is taxed more realistically, private driving is still heavily subsidized, with motorists externalizing their costs onto everybody else.

Bicycling, which is the cheapest transport mode for a city to accommodate, as well as the most energy- and space-efficient, should not be ashamed of occasionally requiring a modest public expense.

Nevertheless, let’s hope this bikeshare works well, since in nearly every other city in which bikeshare has been tried, it has served not only to boost the bicycle’s mode share in general, but has also resulted in increased bike sales as commuters get hooked on riding and come to want their own individualized bikes.

And let’s hope the lucky kids enjoy the swoopy department-store cruisers they were given, and work their way up to their own individualized bikes as they grow older.

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