Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tragedy of the Commons, Bike Programs Go Flat

From a Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader story "Yellow Bikes Ready for Riding" on May 18:

"Identical new bright yellow bicycles -- 52 of them -- were placed in downtown Lexington yesterday. For a fee of $10 that's good for a lifetime, a person may take one of the bikes for a spin at any time from April to October in the downtown area."

From a June 7 Herald-Leader story, "
So Popular They Disappear: After 3 Weeks, Lexington's Yellow Bikes are Hard to Find,"

"Somewhere out there are 51 other yellow bikes, part of a three-week-old program to promote bike use downtown.

When the program was launched in May, the bikes were clustered conspicuously along busy downtown streets. But today some wonder where all the bikes have gone. There are concerns that people are taking them outside of downtown, storing them at home or stealing them.

A Herald-Leader reporter and photographer drove around downtown and surrounding neighborhoods yesterday for about four hours on a hunt for Yellow Bikes.

The trip turned up 10 bikes, four of which had flat tires (see picture above) or missing seats. Most of the 10 were in residential areas north of the downtown business district, although one bike was locked to a street sign in a nearby neighborhood. One bike with no seat and a flat rear tire had been locked near the corner of N. Broadway and W. Sixth Street for two weeks, a neighbor said."

For previous failed "common property" bike programs, go here for the
Berry Bikes story, and see Frank Stephenson's Division of Labour post here, with more examples.

Not to be deterred by the reality of the many previous failed experiments with common property bikes in other parts of the country, the organizers in Lexington hope to have 200 bikes by the end of summer.

Via Division of Labour.


At 6/11/2007 2:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone's property is no one's property.Municipal taxes are used to make a free gift of bikes to whoever takes them. The money doesn't come out of councillors' pockets -- but they can demand praise for looking after the environment...

At 6/11/2007 8:20 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

The sad thing is that a number of European cities (Amsterdam in particular) have, at last reading, successful yellow bike programs. Probably due to a greater understanding of the implicit social contract across the Atlantic, not to mention a greater acceptance of cycling as a legitimate means of alternative transportation, across demographic and economic strata. In the US, those bicycles are eschewed by anyone who might actually understand the philosophy of common use and left for more desperate people to steal or misuse.
Obviously maintenance is a problem as well. Just throwing bikes on the street without a planned maintenance program or designated responsibility for tire repairs, etc. is pretty foolhardy.

At 6/12/2007 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Warren Buffett said it best when he observed that "No one washes a rental car."

At 6/14/2007 8:53 AM, Blogger Robyn Wade said...

As a resident of Lexington and a user of the community bikes, I would like to add a little update to your entry. Since that article ran, many bikes came out of hiding and the maintenance problems are disappearing. I think more people, including myself, are looking out for the bikes and personally making repairs. The flat tires are a different issue all together. There are only 2-3 gas stations in the downtown area and all of them are on the edges of downtown, not near the places most of the riders are going.


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