November 23, 2010

Bikes and Cars: Framing the Debate

The NYTimes reports that New York City is soliciting proposals from companies to implement a bikeshare program.

The City has already completed a thorough documentation of how such a plan might work, and Transportation Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan has busily invested in infrastructure necessary to making the bicycle a safer and more convenient choice for millions of Manhattanites. And now the rubber is hitting the proverbial road.

I don't always blog about non-Bay Area projects, but the article paraphrased a common critique of bike sharing specifically, and biking more generally, without refuting it:

The city first floated the idea of a bike-sharing program in 2008, but some officials were said to have expressed reservations about giving over city streets and sidewalks to a program that would require a sizable footprint.
In Paris, for instance, parking spaces were removed to make way for hundreds of rental kiosks.
Sizable footprint? Sizable footprint!?!? The amount of space a bike sharing kiosk needs to operate is tiny, infinitesimal compared to the amount of space needed for car storage or public transit storage.

A picture makes my point most efficiently:

Moving people efficiently, adding capacity efficiently, reducing pollution, increasing exercise, I could go on: does not come with cars. Complaining that bikes have a sizable footprint while cars are somehow so unquestioned, so taken for granted as permanent fixtures that their impact goes unmentioned is willfully ignorant.

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