New York City is launching the biggest bike-share program in the nation, with over 6000 bicycles and 300 stations located throughout the city. It’s already so popular, with over 15,000 New Yorkers signed up, that the company is looking to expand to 10,000 bikes. The bike share is not only fast, healthy, and eco-friendly, but it makes the process of biking so much easier, without the hassle of finding a place to lock your bike or worrying about where to stow it in your tiny apartment.
So why is the Wall Street Journal so up in arms?
Editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz took to WSJ Live to haughtily condemn the “dreadful” bike-sharing program. Why does she hate Citi Bikes so much? Well, there are quite a few reasons.
First of all, Rabinowitz declared, we don’t live in “Paris or London or (say it with a scornful drawl) Amsterdam,” and there’s no reason we should act like it.
I’m not sure that bike-shares constitute some kind of evil European socialism we should all be afraid of — they really just seem like an essential public transportation system. And rest assured, fans of capitalism, Citi Bike is a for-profit company that charges users for passes, not some governmental handout.
Second, Rabinowitz cites the fact that a cyclist was hit by an SUV this week as the bikeshare program promoting “death by bicycle.”
Let’s first acknowledge the fact that the cyclist in question did not suffer any life-threatening injuries at all. Furthermore, in the past four years, not a single person has died under the wheels of a bike, but over 597 have been hit and gravely injured by a vehicle. The point is, one anecdote does not an argument make. Yes, bikers should know safe riding rules and there will probably be accidents anyway, but that in no way leads to the conclusion that we should scrap the bike-share.
Third, Rabinowitz warned that the bike racks actually constituted a fire hazard, since they blocked emergency response vehicles from properly reaching those in need.
Again leaving aside the fact that parked cars pose just as big a problem as a bike rack, this argument has been sorely exaggerated. The New York Post tried to claim the same thing by featuring a story where “emergency responders had trouble getting to a 92-year-old resident in distress” because of an “impregnable wall” of a bike rack. In my experience with bike racks, I have never found them all that imposing, and neither does the New York Fire Department, who later issued a statement flatly denying the Post’s account and stating that they “have not experienced any problems nor do we anticipate issues operating at or near bike racks.”
Fourth, Rabinowitz called the installation of the bikeshare a victory of the “all-powerful enterprise” known as “the bike lobby,” appealing to a democratic ideal.
Wondering why you've never heard of this fearful powerhouse before? Maybe because the bike lobby is, “on a good day, four people.”
And finally, she ends with the statement that New York’s “best neighborhoods are absolutely begrimed by these blazing-blue Citi Bank bikes.”
Ah, this seems like the real reason. Rabinowitz may claim to be speaking for the “majority of New York residents” who are positively “appalled,” but it seems to me that she’s speaking for a small minority of the city who probably never use public transportation and would only dream of sitting on a bike for the occasional joyride. Of course, if you live in a townhouse and only want to bike once every few months, you’d probably see the new bike-share as an eyesore. But for the thousands of New Yorkers that use them as everyday transportation, they’re nothing short of a blessing.