Friday, February 13, 2009

Trusted Public Bicycles

The Great Parisian Bike Experiment
02/13/09 - CafeHayek by Russell Roberts

From the BBC two summers ago

[edited] The local authority in Paris has deposited 20,000 heavy-duty bicycles in 750 racks around the city. Users swipe an ordinary travel card and pedal off wherever they want to go.
There was no deposit involved with the bikes, just an inexpensive user fee. The outcome isn't pretty (via Jeff Bliss).
[edited] Over half the original 15,000 specially made bicycles are presumed stolen. They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll.

The company JCDecaux says it can not afford to operate the city-wide network. Nearly all of the original bicycles have been replaced at a cost of 400 euros ($519, £351) each.

Trusted Bicycles 2
10/31/09 - Don Surber

New York Times [edited]: 80% of the initial 20,600 bicycles are stolen or damaged. The program has hired several hundred people to fix them. This has dented the Paris budget and the self image of its residents.

Many of the specially designed $3,500 bikes are showing up on black markets in Eastern Europe and northern Africa. Many are being spirited away for urban joy rides, then ditched by roadsides with bent wheels and stripped tires. Many are vandalized without reason.

The company JCDecaux invested about $140 million to set up the system and pays a yearly fee of about $5.5 million to Paris, which also gets rental fees for the bikes. In return, JCDecaux may put up 1,628 billboards that it can rent.

Don Surber: There is a possibility that the company is making enough money from the billboards to offset the losses on the bikes.

That would make the city of Paris idealistic, and the JCDecaux company realistic.

How many utopian government programs have the same outline? Companies propose plans to achieve part of a glorious future. A "trusting" government grants money and privileges to those companies. The plan falls apart, but somehow the company and the politicians make money. Only the taxpaying public loses.

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