Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The impossibility of the bike thing

Imagine if Mayor Bloomberg would institute a bike renting scheme like the one in Paris. New York would be the perfect place to do it.
Alas, it would be impossible. Too much of a fantastical, wholly unreasonable conceit around these parts. Among other reasons, because here in the US we are sorely lacking in the concept of personal adult responsibility. Here in NY they are banning the fat that goes in our food. You do that to the French and see how fast they bring back the guillotine.
So fear of lawsuits would probably be the first reason. In order to rent you a bike, you'd probably have to bring your own lawyer, who would attest to the fact that you know how to ride it, and have no prior criminal record, etc. Then after submitting yourself for fingerprinting or iris scanning, you'd probably be made to wear a non-negotiable helmet if not more safety contraptions. The bike would probably be rigged not to go above a certain speed. You'd have to sign with blood the 5000 rules and limitations of where and when and how to use it. By the time you'd put the foot on the pedal, they would have taken all the fun out of it.
In Paris, where adults are treated as such and therefore go through life knowing that if something happens to them it's probably their own fault, (which is why you are allowed to bring a bottle of wine or beer to the picnic, for instance) you had to read a very discreet and inobtrusive fine print, and off you went into the Paris traffic, sans helmet, sans any kind of safeguard whatsoever except your own personal common sense. The bikes were available 24 hours. You could, and it was actually very clever, go out late at night and take a bike home after the metro shuts down (at a ridiculous 1 am on weekdays and 2 am on weekends), provided you weren't sloshed out of your wits, and that was at your discretion. More importantly, you could pay 29 euros for the YEAR and have access to the bikes 365/24/7. That was the point of the program, to encourage people to leave their car at home.
Was the mayor concerned over accidents and traffic fatalities and stuff like that? Peut etre un peu. But not enough not to trust his own citizenry to act responsibly and in a civilized manner for the common good and the joy of all.

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