You can take your "Citibikes" and shove 'em, Bloomberg!
Readers of World War 4 Report will know that we are implacable enemies of the pathological global car culture, pillar of petro-oligarchical rule, and support the ultimate abolition of the internal combustion engine. And readers will know that your chief blogger is a long-suffering New York City bicyclist. So we would really like to take heart in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial measures to accommodate bicycles. But since the very start, it has all smelled suspicious to us. The "congestion pricing" plan to charge motorists to enter Manhattan struck us as a prescription for turning the island into a sort of Manhattanland tourist theme park; the closing of large sections of Times Square to cars has coincided with administration of this "public" space being turned over nearly completely to the Times Square Alliance BID; plans to bar cars from the East Village's Cooper Square are similarly concomitant with delivering the historic plaza over to Cooper Union college and New York University as a virtually privatized space. Now, the plans for a bicycle-sharing program vindicate our worst fears...
A page on Hizzoner's own eponymous news service, Bloomberg, sports a photo of the atrocities that well-heeled New Yorkers will be riding around on—dubbed "Citibikes," and each one sporting the goddam Citibank logo! And while the pricing scheme for the Citibikes is incomprehensibly complicated (Gothamist makes a stab at explaining it), there seems to be a $9.95 base price for single-day use, with an additional $4 for an hour's use. So a one-time hour-long ride will cost... 14 bucks?!?! This is a "bicycle-sharing" program for people who habitually take cabs, it seems. (By Gothamist's math, a four-hour ride would cost $77!) The Transportation Nation blog tells us that Mastercard, which is also kicking in a few million for the program, will operate the payment system. Which we assume means: no cash accepted, of course.
A double insult! Having some sinister corporation get to splash its logo all over the bikes would be bad enough! And having the program be ludicrously overpriced would be bad enough! But... both?!
The bicycle-sharing programs in most European cities are free. Yuppies using the Citibike program will never know that the first bike-sharing program was pioneered in Amsterdam in the '60s by a radical counterculture group, the Provos. Before the city government got on board later, the Provos' "White Bicycle" initiative was an "underground" program launched in spite of the authorities, and celebrated in the acid-rock anthem "My White Bicycle." And now, two generations later, it has come to... this?! Like all of Bloomberg's supposed pro-bicycle measures, this represents sinister elite recuperation of progressive, revolutionary ideas.
We are also increasingly convinced that these measures are doing more harm than good. Even as they spark a backlash from reactionary motorheads, they may actually be restricting the freedom and safety of cyclists. We've already heard stories of cyclists being ticketed for not being in the bike lane. Motorists meanwhile seem to think they are not obliged to respect any cyclist's right to the road on that overwhelming majority of the city's streets that don't have bike lanes! This blogger was riding on one of those streets yesterday, Brooklyn's Myrtle Ave., when (yet again!) a bus driver cut me off and came within inches and micro-seconds of killing me. When I caught up with him at the next bus-stop and got in his face, I didn't just get the usual arrogant and dismissive 'tude—he had the nerve to say, "There's no bike lane on this street!" Idiot! Idiot!! Idiot!!! As if any cyclist on a street with no bike lane is nothing but roadkill waiting to happen.
You'd think it would have occurred to Bloomberg to instruct his notoriously pro-bicycle transportation commish Janette Sadik-Khan to have a little talk with MTA chair Joseph Lhota and tell him to make sure bus drivers know that bicyclists have a right to the road! Hellooo...? Instead, the MTA seems to be instructing their drivers that cyclists have no rights.
The Transportation Department has put up signs at certain dangerous intersections with an image of a bicycle and the words "SHARE THE ROAD." Some do-gooders have left white-painted "ghost bikes" at places around the city where cyclists have been killed. It is all an exercise in futility that makes no impact on the mentality of motorists. I even had a motorist cut me off while indicating the sign and shouting at me: "SHARE THE ROAD!"—as if the sign were admonishing bicyclists to share the road with motorists! These are all ultimately counterproductive compromise measures that only forestall the inevitable solution: banning cars from New York City.
And, eventually, the world.