As of right now (Tuesday morning), the most e-mailed story on the NY Times website is “A New French Revolution’s Creed: Let Them Ride Bikes.”
The gist of the story is that Paris is rolling out Vélib (for “vélo,” bicycle, and “liberté,” freedom), a rental bike program similar to others that have appeared recently in European cities such as Stockholm, Vienna, Lyon, Barcelona, Brussels and Copenhagen.
Actually, my home town of Portland experimented with a free bike program about 12 years ago, but I think the program’s been more or less dormant ever since.
Anyhow, the things I find interesting about these initiatives are both that cities are finally waking up to how much better a bicycle is than a car in a dense urban area, but that if you build a system intelligently, the system will work. From the Times:
Jean-Luc Dumesnil, who is an adviser in [Paris] City Hall on cycling policy, said that while the number of bicycles on the streets increased by 50 percent in the last six years, the number of cycling accidents remained stable.
“It’s the cycling paths, but it’s also a question of critical mass,” Mr. Dumesnil said. “The more bikes there are, the more car drivers get used to them and the more care they take.”