06 April 2017

Coming To My Town?

I am not surprised.

Over the past few weeks, I've written about "Uber for Bicycles"--or, if you like, Citibike (or Velib or Bixi or whatever bike share program you care to name) without the docks or ports.

Such services have become very popular in a few Chinese cities where, apparently, people are getting back to bikes.  The success of such services has caused their operators--Mobike and Ofo, mainly--to eye overseas expansion.  

Turns out, Mobike as well as a few other "rogue" companies are planning to "dump thousands of bicycles on Big Apple streets," as the New York Post exclaimed with the sort of hyperbolic vitriol, or vitriolic hyperbole, on which the Post seems to have a patent.

Mobikes in Shanghai. Photo by Johannes Eisele, from Getty Images.

Those companies are setting their sights on parts of the city not currently served by Citibike--mainly, Manhattan north of 110th Street and Staten Island.  The latter could be particularly fertile territory for a bike-share service, as the city's subway system doesn't run there and there are fewer bus lines and other mass transportation options than exist in the other boroughs.  Bike shares could be particularly useful for commuters and others who ride the Staten Island Ferry to and from Manhattan.

And, I must say, that I like the idea of a port- or dock-free share service.  At the same time, I share the concern expressed by Post editors and others who worry that bikes will be "strewn" all over city sidewalks and streets, as they are in Chinese cities. Those problems, however, could be avoided with sensible regulation.  With such regulation, I think it would be easier to pre-empt such bike-blocked streets and sidewalks because as narrow as some streets in this town are, I would guess they're still wider than those in China, particularly in the old central areas of that country's cities.

(As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I've never been to China.  But I know that New York streets are wider than those in Europe which are, from what I'm told, wider than some of their counterparts in Chinese cities.)

Anyway, I think "Uber for Bikes" is indeed coming to my hometown.  We just need to learn from the experiences of those cities that already have it and develop the right policies for it.


  1. Although it's been many years since i was last in New York, i remember seeing many worse things than bicycles "strewn" about the streets there.

  2. Mike--I remember those days, too. Fortunately, things are better, if less affordable!

  3. First thoughts: What would be the theft rate on loose, un-docked bicycles in NYC? Or vandalism? Even Portland has organized, systematic vandalism aimed against their bike share program. Certainly the NYPD would not prioritize the security of these bikes. One might predict not bikes strewn about the streets, but bike components and fragments strewn about the streets. These Chinese businessmen might not know what they are getting into. Chinese society is much more disciplined than American society in general.

    I am reminded of the scene from Casablanca where Major Strasser is bragging to Rick about how the German Army may soon be in the US. Rick sneers and says, "Well, there are places in New York I wouldn't advise you to try and occupy".


  4. Leo--I don't have any statistics, but from what I've seen and heard, there is a lot of vandalism against Citibikes, although I'm not sure there's a lot of theft: After all, it's pretty difficult to disguise, much less "fence", one of those bikes.

    One of the ironies is that as the overall crime rate has dropped here in NYC, bike theft has increased.