The Embarrassing Laziness of Ginia Bellafante’s Bike-Share Kvetchfest
I wish I could say I was surprised that the Times published Ginia Bellafante’s collection of stereotypes and gripes about bike-share in the Sunday edition. But it’s exactly the kind of shallow kvetchfest I’ve come to expect when the Times tries to encapsulate the state of bike-related public policy. Mostly I’m just embarrassed, as a New Yorker and a journalist, that the most prestigious newspaper in our city keeps publishing stuff like this.
It’s 2013 and public bike systems are operating in 500 cities worldwide, according to the Earth Policy Institute. Two of those cities — Boston and Washington, DC — are less than 250 miles from New York and have a few years of bike-share experience under their belts. Once bike-share launches here, it’s going to help a lot of people overcome some quintessential New York transportation problems. Ever try to cross Manhattan at faster-than-walking speed? Wish you could get to the train quicker on your morning commute? A bike-share membership is going to save you a lot of time.
So it’s cringe-inducing to read Bellafante’s lede about bike-share bringing New Yorkers “the opportunity to show the world that they are just as virtuous, well-intentioned and offended by sloth as people in Copenhagen or Geneva or any other of a number of cities where mindful living and wonderful yogurts reign.” Meanwhile, those yogurt-loving sophisticates in Columbus, Ohio, will be getting a downtown bike-share system this summer.
Bellafante’s rehash of pre-launch bike-share complaints here in NYC could have used some perspective from other cities. Here’s Greater Greater Washington’s David Alpert reminiscing about the pre-launch apprehension in DC, and how it melted away once people got familiar with the system:
DC saw some contentious public meetings about whether stations belonged in certain neighborhoods. That’s all long gone. Now, when an ANC takes up bike sharing, it’s usually either to push for more stations or debate whether a station belongs in one spot or across the street…
The system will open, and residents will realize that bike sharing is nothing like their worst fears. Neighbors will clamor for stations.
But why bother to check out the experience of other cities when your “aggrieved neighbor” is already feeding you such quality information?