Anti-bike rhetoric and FUD from NYT
In the New York Times piece reporting the planned introduction of rental electric cars in Paris, the piece opens with frightening tales of the number of the Velib rental bikes that have been damaged in the history of the operation of the system. This clearly is intended to communicate how much the system has failed.
Most tellingly, the NYT article conveniently omitted that renting the bike is identified by a credit card or your personalised transport card. So if a bike is damaged, the renter is responsible and pays for the cost. So while there may have been many bikes damaged (most I've ever seen comprising a flat tyre), the vast majority of the cost of damage is not born by the city. Certainly there are some which are vandalised while in their locks, but this is vandalism which is as prevalent against any chained private bicycle or stationary item, and an issue to be dealt with by the police.
Having lived in that beautiful and vibrant city for 18 months, beyond the NYT corporate propaganda lies a completely different story. Velib has been an incredible success, with rapid adoption by the public, enduring regular use, reducing the need for other more expensive and destructive forms of public and particularly, private transport. The metro trains finish running at 1:30am most nights, and I always found it particularly convenient to take a Velib home if I missed the train.
But there are other flow-on effects. Women in particular aren't forced to wait late at night for public transport to arrive - a moving bicycle in no small part reduces late night assaults against women who would otherwise have to walk or wait on a taxi, bus or train.
The system has been adopted in several other cities with similar enthusiastic response. In the case of Lyon, without any cost to the city, being completely provided by private industry in exchange for advertising space.
In New York city, the burden for bike advocacy and ultimately helping to prolong human life on earth is taken up by groups such as Times Up who actively work selling bicycles, offering very cheap workshops and free lessons to repair bicycles. That is a story far more worthy that the NYT should be covering, it doesn't need some reporter on a junket to Paris. What the NYT should also have covered is the public cost of repairing the roads to meet the needs of private industry, and how that cost dwarfs the cost of public provision of bicycles.