The London Model is Dead. Time to Look at Paris.

David Haskell, executive director of the Forum for Urban Design, and organizer of last week’s New York Bike-Share Project demonstration in Soho, says it’s time for New York City to ditch the London model and take a closer look at the traffic-reduction techniques Paris has implemented without congestion pricing. An op/ed in today’s New York Times focuses on one aspect of the Paris approach, bike-sharing:

If it turns out that New Yorkers are not yet prepared to embrace
congestion pricing, and if Albany remains its intransigent self, Mr.
Bloomberg should get over his fascination with London — and look
instead at what’s happening in Paris.

Last week, Bertrand
Delanoë, Paris’s maverick and popular mayor, introduced the world’s
largest and most ambitious bike-share program: 10,600 bikes (scaling up
to 20,600 by the end of the year) available at 750 “docking stations”
situated every 1,000 feet. With a swipe of a credit card and a modest
fee, Parisians (and tourists) can now pick up or drop off a bike in any
neighborhood in the city. Riders no longer need to worry about storing
their bikes in tiny apartments. The program’s high-tech stations make
theft virtually impossible. And with about twice as many bike stations
as Métro stops, a free bike is pretty much always within reach.

New
York’s subways and buses are already at capacity, and as we prepare to
add one million new residents by 2030, our existing mass transit will
require improvements that will take years (if not generations) to put
in place. Mr. Bloomberg has fewer than 1,000 days left as mayor. His
best chance at securing an environmentalist legacy is to embrace
bike-sharing.

  • Dimbulb

    Does anyone think this will really get NY’ers out of cars? Better mobility for some pedestrians and some diversion from crowded subways or slow buses, yes, but less traffic?

  • gecko

    You can buy a lot of bikes for half a billion dollars.

  • Closing down some streets to cars, all of the time or during certain hours, will get rid of that traffic. Delanoë’s reforms seemed to be concentrated in the Marais (hmm) as walking around that hood is noticeably better than previously, and leaving it we were surprised to find the same old bad street crossings and heavy traffic. As long as the political will is there to expand those reforms it could work out really well.

    On the other hand, Paris already has public transportation that is well funded and decades ahead of New York’s; congestion pricing was our best hope to fund ours properly. Now I suppose we can “tax the rich” as all those helpful populist congestion pricing opponents suggested. Wake me up when that happens, as I might have escaped to another time zone.

  • David

    “Now I suppose we can “tax the rich” as all those helpful populist congestion pricing opponents suggested.”

    It should happen. Of course, you can always take a defeatist approach and constrain all of our public solutions to those vetted by a wealthy few. But, iff a candidate for Mayor ran on a platform of increasing city income tax on the wealthy specifically for improvements to mass transportation, he or she might find find a large amount of popularity in the polity. That would require the gumption to stand up to the wealthy, which is something corporatist Democrats completely lack. (I mean, the national party can’t even pass an increased minimum wage without forcing government to pay for it, instead of the wealthy!)

    As an aside, it appears that economists have a staunch disdain for “populism.” By “populism” do you mean social justice? Or are you referring to any program that proposes alternatives to radical capitalism?

  • Reducing vehicle-miles of travel in the core of the city will certainly make bike travel easier. But the vast majority of New Yorkers travel to he core by public transit. Billions of dollars of public funds have been spent over the past 25 years to make the system more reliable and attractive. Except for two subway lines, MTA could run many more trains during peak hours. This would cost more money. Some 900 serviceable subway cars are slated to be junked (perhaps to provide more elbow room for sardines in the Atlantic Ocean). These cars could be retained for another dozen years, allowing a 10 to 20% gain in service to occur in the next couple of years, as new cars now on order arrive. If the city’s congestion pricing plan had directed some of its revenue stream to making the existing system better, it might have had a chance of making it.

    A key problem is the large gap between advocates of “green transport” and rail advocates who often get absorbed in the nitty-gritty. Many thanks to streetsblog for posting the next meeting of the Regional Rail Working Group (which is tonight) and providing a link to our website.

  • r

    This will not do anything to mitigate the impact of cars coming in from the outer boroughs, Westchester, LI, and New Jersey. And no one is riding these to, say, Yankee Stadium, and then taking a late night ride back home.

    I would suspect that one market for these bikes in NYC would be people who would otherwise take the subway. (A DUMBO resident who works in Lower Manhattan, a Village resident who works in Midtown, etc.) So, perhaps it would free up a few seats on the subway, but it would do little to ease traffic above ground.

    The other market, and it’s also tiny, would be people who would ride to work if only they could get secure bike parking. But it’s probably such a small number that I doubt it would have any effect.

    Bike sharing is great if it’s seen as one tiny part of mass transit and if it makes cycling a more visible presence in this city. Anything bigger than that is true pie in the sky thinking.

  • some dude

    I have to agree, this won’t reduce cars at all! I much prefer the reduction/elimination of much of the street parking in the city. Let’s turn some of the parking into wider sidewalks or separated bike lanes. (Then maybe a Paris-like bike sharing program could work.) People won’t drive in if they have nowhere to park…and at least parking garages charge market rates, unlike meters.

  • Delanoe’s main strategy is to reduce traffic by reducing road space for cars – converting lanes to bus-only lanes and bike lanes.

    Bike sharing alone won’t do it.

  • If we do something like this, we’d need to totally redesign the streets to make them bike-friendly; the average person (especially the average tourist) is not going to be comfortable, probably rightly, riding a bike on say Houston Street. Even the lanes are unsafe.

    For now Bloomberg should probably resort to less drastic measures of taxing drivers (double existing tolls and toll the East River bridges, for a start…). And maybe a personal 8-dollar per block toll on Sheldon Silver.

  • andrew

    even if it reduces TAXI traffic it could be a great improvement, say for business people taking short trips.

  • “By ‘populism’ do you mean social justice?”

    Look it up, dear.

  • gecko

    Not unlike cars, hermit crabs carry their homes with them on their backs. And, they’re kind of comical and impractical in a lot of ways. Luckily, they haven’t figured out how to achieve the power to move fast.

    Once you start having vehicles at human scale weighing in at 100 pounds or less — 50 pounds or less for bicycles — things start getting real interesting.

    It’s a shame that it seems that most transportation engineers don’t understand this which is why so called “serious” transportation doesn’t really do the job.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    “Serious” transportation engineers only talk about smart cars, if you believe the prevalence of stories on Bernie Wagenblast’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (linked from The Subwayblogger. Weird.

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