Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bikeshare Programs, Ctd.

In reponse to this post, a commentator writes:

Your account of what 'history' tells us about bikesharing is too selective to offer any true insight. Your omission of any mention of success stories like Montreal and Minneapolis, and your eagerness to file Paris under 'duds' is also rather questionable. I understand the this is a property theory post, but by focussing on only one aspect (vandalism) you ignore the numerous positive effects bike share schemes have on a city. Surely the success or failure of a scheme should be measured against all of these things.

This is a fair response that deserves some attention.  The first claim is that my post ignored a number of successful bikeshare programs.  The commentator cites Montreal's Bixi bikeshare program as an example.  I'm not so sure Montreal helps the pro-Bikeshare argument.  Bixi is currently over $30 million in debt.  Last year, expenses outpaced revenues by almost $7 million.  Yet, as the commentator rightfully notes the program may generate many wonderful externalities that justify this use of taxpayer dollars.  The Bixi program, for example, may reduce automobile trips and increase the health of city residents.  This, too, flounders when confronted with the facts.  Researchers at McGill report that 86% of Bixi trips replaced walking, or rides on personal bikes or public transit.  Only 10% of rides replaced car trips.  Thus, the environmental and health benefits seem pretty week.  

My point here is not that Bikeshare programs are evil.  Some of my best friends ride bikes.  It just seems that in a world of (very) limited resources, Bikeshare programs are a poor way to spend government dollars.   

Steve Clowney

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