Thursday, February 12, 2009

Update on Velib bike sharing

Following up on the BBC article that struck fear in the hearts of bike-share supporters everywhere, Streetsblog has a piece today aimed at countering the bad press.
The BBC's portrayal of a mortal threat, they say, is best understood as a negotiating ploy on the part of JCDecaux. (Note that the JCDecaux representative is the only source quoted in that story.)
Duly noted. The article sure was a shocking departure from the normally rosy picture of Vélib we tend to see. And it's the oldest play in the book for a company involved in a "public-private partnership" to manipulate the media in order to squeeze more blood from the government turnip. So it's refreshing to hear that even though the road bike lane is a little bumpy, the city of Paris and the public as a whole still support the system (which was labeled a "scheme" by the BBC).
"Vélib has been totally embraced by Mayor Bertrand Delanoe himself," said Nadal. What politician wouldn't jump at the chance to be identified with a program that enjoys 94 percent satisfaction among constituents?
But I doubt this media battle is over. An anonymous commenter identifying him- or herself only as J wants SB to know that, if I may paraphrase, 'Nah-ah!'

And I remain worried that this "negotiating ploy" will taint the political environment here in San Francisco. Lord knows our current administration never met a public-private partnership it didn't like. And past experience makes me doubt Newsom and the Comical will have the backbone (or the inclination) to look past the "help, the sky will fall unless you give ClearChannel more money" message that we'll likely hear if JCDecaux's message sticks.

San Franciscans who want to see bike sharing succeed here need to make sure everybody knows that it is succeeding in Paris (80,000 daily users show that there's a demand for such programs). And we need to make sure that our program isn't doomed from the start by ignoring the lessons of Vélib.

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