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Bill Ford: Future traffic gridlock a bigger problem than global warming

July 05, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

I had a little time to burn on this past Saturday afternoon, so I tore through the Streetsblog Network RSS feed and stumbled upon a post titled “Finding Sanity in the July 4th Gridlock: Bill Ford’s TED Talk“. Bill Ford is the great-grandson of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company. Bill Ford is a car guy. He claims to care about the environment. Fine.

In his TED Talk, he suggests that we, as a society/global community, have a lot of work left to do, but that we’re well on our way to solving the global warming issue. Confident guy. The real problem we face going forward, he suggests, is traffic gridlock.

Here’s the TED Talk — it’s clownish and amateurish, and is just PR for Ford and the automobile industry, but at least it’s boring:

There are a couple of points I’d like to make:

  1. ‘Intelligent roadways’ won’t work: This ‘intelligent roadways’ stuff has been given attention and some credibility because honorable, decent, smart people like Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, have touted the idea — Chase has referred to the ‘mesh network’ (presumably of roadways and cars and intelligent road pricing, and ancillary ideas/technologies). But ‘intelligent roadways (for cars)’ is a horrible idea if only because it seeks to delay the point in time at which humanity finally gives up on automobile transport, with its myriad lethal effects, locally and globally. But practically-speaking about today, we know that any tool/technology/policy that decreases auto congestion will only work to induce/increase demand — simply put, more people will want to drive because traffic is not quite as bad as it used to be. With cars and car technology — including ‘intelligent roadways’ and ‘mesh networks’ — even when you ‘win’ with cars, you lose — the only possible way to win, then, is not to play the game. Cars are a failed endeavor and now are threatening the survival of the human species. Biking and walking work pretty well — we should allow people to do them. You know those expensive and maddening freeway on-ramp meters? They decrease congestion by 10-15%. For some period of time — 3 months? 6 months? Until more people are driving and fill up the extra road capacity. You know, induced demand and all that. Everything about cars is just one giant FAIL. We need to let cars go the way of the dodo. The imaginary ‘hypercar’ will not save us. We know people who drive ‘clean(ish) energy cars’ drive more than people who drive regular cars — as we’ve said, even when you ‘win’ with cars, you still lose. Cars suck. They are inherently a sucky solution to the problem of mobility/transport — it’s difficult-to-impossible to fix ‘inherently sucky’. We shouldn’t work so hard to try to keep cars a viable transport option. And I’m not saying cars can’t be useful in some capacity — for instance, it’s fun to go watch a demolition derby — watching cars destroy each other is my idea of a good time — so cars can address ‘the boredom problem’ pretty well, but ‘the boredom problem’ is not ‘the mobility problem’.
  2. Have we hit peak car travel? Folks are talking peak car use and peak travel and peak (motor) vehicle miles traveled and whatever else, but I’m not buying it. I don’t think it’s overly important for everyone to focus on whether or not this number is growing, holding steady, or shrinking — I think we should all do our best to concentrate on giving people the option to walk and bike to their destinations. If we take care of that, the car problem with take care of itself. In the TED Talk above, Bill Ford suggests that his company believes the world will be inhabited by 2 to 4 billion cars by 2050. There are ‘only’ 0.8 billion cars today. That represents up to a four-fold increase in the number of operational cars on the planet. Most of that growth will come from the developing world — China, India, and large and rising middle classes in countries around the globe. Some other folks think it is possible to sustain billions of cars on earth if we figure out how to make them…burn pixie dust or something — I have no idea. Sounds deranged to me. Global warming and its crazy effects are happening right now, with less than a billion cars in the world — someone thinks it’s wise to keep and even grow the number of cars we already have on this planet? Are we supposed to wait until San Francisco and Manhattan are underwater before we get serious about allowing people to get around on bikes?

The auto industry already invests billions in advertising and public relations — including the funding of high-profile operations like Streetsblog member TheCityFix — not sure why the TED conference felt the need to let a Ford executive jump on stage and read from a teleprompter for 17 minutes. C’est la vie.

Hangzhou Bike Share Provides Medical Insurance

June 28, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

Update: Joan Valls Fantova, president of, lets us know that Barcelona’s Bicing Bicycle Share System also provides insurance — not only to the rider and property, but also covers any third party person/property involved in a collision/accident. A Google translation of the FAQ page says:

Bizi has some kind of insurance?

Yes, there is liability insurance for damage to any item, equipment or user Bicing could lead to a third party, and the damage can be done by the same user.

Thanks Joan!
Hangzhou’s massive bike sharing system provides medical insurance in case of accident or collision:

In fact, the Public Bicycle System in one of China’s wealthiest cities, Hangzhou, has surpassed Paris’ Velib as the world’s largest bike-share program, with 60,600 low-cost, low-tech bikes and more than 2,400 stations spaced out about every 200 meters, [Susan] Shaheen said. Since Hangzhou opened the floodgates in 2008, more than a dozen other cities in China have launched cycle-hire schemes. Uniquely, China provides insurance if an accident happens during a trip. “No other place has bundled that in,” said Shaheen.

I think it’s ridiculous that we ‘rich’ Americans don’t have universal health care, but health insurance is a legitimate concern for anyone without it, or with sub-optimal health insurance (which is pretty much everyone, except Congress, to my understanding).

I know for sure that I have avoided certain risky activities, like playing soccer, biking, etc., when I had a lapse in my health insurance, and I know other people do it, too. We have good reason — in 2007, 62% of all bankruptcies were tied to medical bills. That’s insane. But what’s more insane is that 80% of those people had health insurance.

It’s one thing to risk your personal safety by riding a bike — it’s another thing to risk bankrupting your family.

Need bike insurance?

I’m skeptical that this concern is actually a reason significant numbers of people don’t ride, but I do believe it prevents at least a small percentage of people from riding. Maybe bike-sharing in Vermont will take off? Time will tell.

Can companies save money by locating near transit?

June 17, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

I don’t know the answer to this question, but I suspect it is a ‘Yes’. Savings on employee salaries could offset higher costs of land/office space/payroll taxes/etc.

I’m currently on the prowl for a new job. I’m not a fan of buses, so the only realistic non-car transportation choices for me are walking, biking, and train travel.

I have some choice in where I work (hard to believe, I know). I can’t pick a company I want to work for and work there (I’m not that good), but I do often end up with competing offers which have various pluses and minuses — one of the biggest factors for me, of course, is location location location.

Let’s go to a concrete example. There are myriad tech companies (my main deal) all over the Bay Area — downtown San Francisco all the way down The Peninsula (everything between San Francisco and San Jose), all the way into downtown San Jose and all of the mega-sprawl that is San Jose (the 10th biggest city in the US). Two locations I’m currently looking at are downtown Redwood City, and Redwood Shores — they sound similar because they’re pretty close — but downtown Redwood City has a train stop, and Redwood Shores has….high speed roadways, and is located on ‘the wrong side’ of 101 — that is, to get there by bike from Caltrain, for instance, you’d have to cross over the 101. Somehow.

When speaking to a recruiter about the Redwood Shores position, I said, “I’d normally ask in the range of $X k/yr, but since y’all are in a….less than optimal location for me to commute to (understatement!), I’d ask for X*1.20 (that is, 20% more than I would ask for a position in a good location, like downtown Redwood City.”

Then she hit me with the, “Well, I think they work from home sometimes, etc.,” to which I thought about my old engineering professor’s line: “Life is full of decisions.” Translated, this would mean, “Listen — y’all decided to locate on the wrong side of the 101 — that’s up to y’all — but you have to deal with the consequences of your actions and decisions.” In other words, it’s not my fault that they decided to be on the wrong/cheap-land side of the 101, and I don’t care that someone can sometimes work from home — if it’s 100% telecommute/work-from-home, then there’s something to talk about, otherwise, I just need to know if you’re good with the additional 20% salary boost to compensate for the crummy office location. Apparently, they are. [In actuality, my Crappy Commute Multiplier is closer to 40%, but I suspect I'm not normal.]

What if we could show that employees, in particular young, urban-y employees who don’t necessarily like to or want to drive, would work for…10-20% less if they could get to work without a car? That’s significant money. Also, employers like Google and Microsoft and Apple and myriad other companies run what amounts to a massive, private army of high end/luxury transportation services to shuttle employees to Caltrain, and to various locations/cities/downtowns all over the Bay Area — wouldn’t they like to get rid of this incredible expense?

[Incidentally, it is generally taken for granted that this private transit army is good for the area and its employees, but I believe it helps to keep land use sprawly and inefficient, helps increase traffic congestion and noise and various other nuisances/pollution, and it helps undermine public transit. That's a story for another day, though.]

Why is crossing the 101, on foot or bike, such a disaster? Just look at what you would see on your way to Redwood Shores from the nearest Caltrain station, Belmont — this is Ralston Ave., heading East — you’ve survived the onramp to the 101 Southbound, and now you’re faced with an uphill climb while the number of car lanes increases — once you make it to the top of the hill, you’ll once again have to not get killed by drivers zooming onto the onramp for the 101 Northbound, as the wide shoulder recedes from about 6′ wide to about 2′, before it eventually disappears altogether — and for your reward, you’ll be subjected to Marine Parkway, yet another high-speed, multi-lane roadway, with a speed-inducing raised median (those are the Oracle towers ahead) (and don’t ask about the way back — with the disappearing bike lane that drops you between four lanes of high speed auto traffic, two lanes on either side of you, while you try to maintain your balance as you ride over the reflectors that sit on the striped white line that you are now riding/praying on):

So, a few tidbits:

  1. Freeways destroy value. I can’t say this with authority because I’m not a commercial real estate person, but i suspect office space rates on the ‘right side’ of the 101 are higher than on the ‘wrong side’ of the 101 (aka ‘the middle of nowhere’)
  2. Any unnatural obstruction to the movement of people (and their services and ideas!) and goods has the potential to destroy value — so whether you erect an invisible Maginot line between countries to keep people from moving about freely (aka ‘borders’), some anti-human wall to trap people in Apartheid-like bantustans, or just build a massive freeway — all of these things have the potential to destroy economic value (not to mention the human spirit)
  3. There is an abundance of labor, and most companies understand that most employees are replaceable, so companies are not hesitant to locate in the middle of nowhere. For exceptionally-talented employees, companies need only to pony up the extra coin to bring them on board
  4. There is some talk of companies abandoning suburbia for walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible places, but I don’t believe there’s much evidence for it. For example, take Google, Facebook, and Apple — they’re all either extending and expanding their stays in The Middle of Nowhere, or they are moving even further out into The Middle of Nowhere.

The question is, how much cheaper is office space/land/taxes in the middle of nowhere (Redwood Shores, Cupertino, etc.) compared to in places that are relatively walk/bike/transit-accessible? Then factor in how much less expensively employees would be willing to work for if they were allowed to work in the more-desirable location — which means they’ll have higher-quality lives, they’ll live healthier and longer, they won’t be contributing as much to the destruction of the environment, they won’t suffer as much marital stress and unpleasantness (and ultimately, divorce), etc. If the two costs are close (savings on office space vs. savings on employee salaries), then perhaps companies should rethink where they locate.

Should bike-sharing programs have to make money?

June 17, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Simple Answers to Simple Questions


This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

Female Driver ‘Backlash’ in Saudi Arabia

June 17, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

Are you a member of the Law & Order Brigade (L&OB)? Then you have a wonderful opportunity today!

It seems that the women of Saudi Arabia (that repressive, authoritarian, extremist, torturing state supported with billions of US taxpayer dollars — yet described in the US corporate media as ‘moderate’) are about to start breaking the law, en mass, just like stop sign-running cyclists here in the USA do every day — click the image to see the full video (Warning: NSFL&OB):

I, for one, can not stand for this. I plan to write my Congresscritter immediately and demand that they demand that the women of Saudi Arabia obey the law — the women of Saudi Arabia simply must not be allowed to drive, as it is against the law, and the law must not be broken. Further, if some women in Saudi Arabia do dare to drive, then I will implore my representative to implore the dictatorship government of Saudi Arabia to punish these outlaw women to the fullest extent of the law.

If you are with me, please leave a comment with your full name and email address so that the women drivers of Saudi Arabia will be able to thank you for your extreme magnanimity in making sure that they remained true to the ideals of modern authoritarianism — to unquestionably obey all laws, no matter how unjust, no matter the consequences (assuming we ever hear from them again).

Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter.

Velib Hits 100 Million Trips (in just 4 years)

June 15, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

Tip: World Citybike email list.

I’m not sure why a Japanese game show-type thing happened around one of the stations (presumably to celebrate the 100 Millionth trip), but it’s pretty darn funny:

The PDF press release has a few more details, including this quote from the Paris transportation person:

As this milestone of 100 million trips illustrates, Vélib’ continues to go from strength to strength. In the 1st quarter of 2011, Vélib’ had over 5.5 million rentals, the best 3-month period since the scheme was launched. Vélib’ has proven to be an up-to-date, efficient, non-polluting means of transport, well suited to the mobility requirements of the wider public. As I frequently find myself repeating, Vélib’ is breaking new ground. It is a relatively new scheme that has never been rolled out on such a large scale before and it will inevitably require fine-tuning if we want to continue improving the quality of the service offered to the large numbers of its users. We will continue to work hard, building upon today’s celebrations to ensure the success of Vélib’ in the future.

Annick Lepetit, Deputy Mayor of Paris responsible for travel, transportation and public spaces.

More here.

It’ll be interesting to see what types of numbers will be possible as Paris and other cities gradually provide more safe and comfortable places to ride.

Awesome: Toronto Gets Bike Sharing

May 04, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

BIXI Toronto has launched. This is a really big deal.

I like the ‘human-powered transport is a human right’ argument as a good reason to support public bike-sharing systems, but the ‘relieves (auto) congestion‘ reason is solid, too, and will appeal to drivers as well. Of course, with gas prices, I think banging on the ‘gas prices!’ drum is a good idea — we need to allow people to get around under their own power, save some money, etc.

Toronto is a major city (somewhat unlike DC), it’s in North America (unlike Paris), and it’s English-speaking and culturally-similar to US cities (unlike Montreal). If located in the US, Toronto would be our 4th-largest city. It’s the 5th-largest sports market in North America, with several professional sports franchises. It’s a financial center, has at least one world class university, was home to Jane Jacobs for the second part of her life, has a transit system that wasn’t completely dismantled by General Motors, etc. Now, Toronto has bike-sharing (actually, it had a small system a few years back).

Reading through some of the opening press accounts, I found this interesting tidbit:

There are also wider concerns that there is not enough existing cycling infrastructure in Toronto to support the program. Bike lanes have yet to materialize in the numbers we were promised back in 2009, and major thoroughfares like Bloor Street remain potentially dangerous for cyclists.

The writer just takes it for granted that cyclists need to be able to ride the major thoroughfares of the city safely — not the minor ones, the major ones. I agree.

Not quite sure I’d have picked black as the color of the bikes — not an easy color to see. And don’t like the ads all over the bikes and stations. And I still want some bikes with child seats.

But, at least the Toronto bikes will stay on the street all year long — unlike in Montreal, where they take the bikes off the streets in winter. I really have no idea what drove that decision — it just seems weird to me.

As far as I know, Boston is the next significant US city on tap. Chicago is toying with the idea of bike-sharing - they have some promo stations set up. Miami is rolling along nicely (more) — and check out that basket! [Miami has almost the same flag as India. Now, if we could get bike-sharing to take off in India before motorization is completed there.] New York City is talking bike-share, but as far as I know it’s still just talk.

With Toronto coming online, it’ll provide some learning and political cover for bike-friendly New York City pols — not to mention some more protection for cyclists from angry cops, drivers, and wealthy people bent on keeping non-rich people down. Soon, it will probably be seen as grossly irresponsible to not have a bike-sharing system in your city. Mayors and councillors will have to explain why they’re foot-dragging on the expansion of bike infrastructure. Removing bike infrastructure will become very difficult-to-impossible — there will just be too many people crowding any existing infrastructure, and biking will enjoy much more popular and political support (naturally).

Well, we can hope. :)

With bike-sharing taking the world by storm, Google is looking prescient for their decision to invest in bike directions. I knew bike-sharing could work and probably would work, but I had no idea it would be so influential so quickly. Now, if we could only get Google bike directions on the iPhone (they are available on Google/Android-based phones). Ride The City’s iPhone app is $2.99 and includes Toronto. Google bike directions are available for Toronto — just not on the iPhone (yet?).

Congrats to our brothers and sisters in Toronto — living the bike lifestyle up there just got a bit easier today.

Toronto Launches Bike Share Program by NewsLook

More video here. Silent ad.

Biking needs a ‘Black Like Me’

April 27, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

Rode into work today — won’t be doing that again for a while (ever?).

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for suffering indignities, but this morning was just no fun. People who bike in America and other bike-hostile locales around the world are my heroes — they should be treated as such.

Black Like Me (wiki), of course, is the story of a white guy who, in the crazy-racist 1959 American South (not that the North was exempt), disguised himself as an African American/black guy and traveled around the South to see what the daily experience of being black was like. It was an eye-opening experience for author, John Howard Griffin, and for much of America.

Riding a bike is not the same thing as being African-American, of course, but both cyclists and African-Americans are often subjected to unjustified, random violence and threats of violence, and often are hated, just for being black or just for riding a bike. The lucky part for many cyclists, however, is that many of us can just hop off our bikes tonight and never pick them up again.

There is a great profile of John Howard Griffin in the Washington Post, written just four years ago, in 2007. There may be a lesson here for the cycling community:

Thus began Griffin’s six-week odyssey through the South, a journey that took him from New Orleans to Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. In March of the next year Sepia published his story, and in 1961 an expanded version was published as a book, “Black Like Me.” The cumulative effect of the magazine story, the book and all the attendant publicity — Griffin was interviewed by the television journalists Dave Garroway and Mike Wallace and featured in Time magazine — was astonishing. The book became a bestseller. It awoke significant numbers of white Americans to truths about discrimination of which they had been unaware or had denied.

I was one of them. In 1961, I was 21 years old, newly graduated from Chapel Hill. I had written sympathetically about the emerging black protests for the student newspaper, but I was deeply ignorant about the truths of black life in America. That it took a white man to begin my awakening is, in hindsight, distressing, but Griffin’s story managed to put me in a black man’s shoes as nothing else had. (My first readings of James Baldwin’s essays were still a couple of years in the future.) “Black Like Me” had a transforming effect on me, as apparently it did on innumerable others. That it has remained in print for more than four decades is testimony to its continuing influence, in great measure because it is taught in high schools and colleges.

How do we get drivers to understand what it’s like to be a biker? Obviously, one answer is to build appropriate infrastructure so we can allow more ‘regular people’ to bike — not just thrill-seekers, or only young males, or the indigent, etc. But what else can we do?

Being terrorized on the road is such a common occurrence for cyclists that many of us just take it for granted. Most of the time it doesn’t even warrant a phone call to police because we are confident we won’t be taken seriously. Subjecting ourselves to violence and threatened violence is just something one signs up for if one decides to ride a bike in America, and in many parts of the world. It shouldn’t be this way. We could really use a ‘Black Like Me’ for cycling. Even a full accounting of the violence and threatened violence that cyclists experience on a single day could be very useful to help sensitize drivers to what it’s like out on the roads as a cyclist — to help build support for common standards of decency and new and better laws to protect cyclists.

I’ve wondered aloud about trying to get newspapers to run a ‘Ask A Cyclist!‘ column — because drivers are typically the most ignorant of road users, and cyclists are typically the most knowledgeable, and much of the harassment and violence drivers direct at cyclists is because drivers are ignorant of the law. “Get out of the middle of the road!” or “Get on the sidewalk!” are just two of the more-common battle cries. The ‘Ask A Cyclist’ column would be a take-off on the ¡Ask A Mexican! column. The wiki says this:

Every week, readers submit their questions based on Mexicans, including their customs, labor issues, and illegal immigration. Arellano responds to two queries a week in a politically incorrect manner often starting with the words “Dear Gabacho.”

If I had a sense of humor or could write, I’d try to do it myself. Any takers?

Update: Impeccable timing: some teens wanted to provide me a good example of unjustified violence against bikers.

New York City Still Failing Its Citizens

April 25, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

I’m going to continue to pick on New York City as long as they continue to put their citizens in danger. The latest indictment against The City (pdf) comes from ‘The Bicycle Scholar’, John Pucher, in his latest study of cycling — comparing 9 major US metros:

New York is a special case. Not only is New York by far the largest of the case study cities, but it has the most mixed record on cycling policies and accomplishments. Although cycling has almost doubled in New York City since 1990, it lags far behind the other case study cities in almost every respect. It has the lowest bike share of commuters, the highest cyclist fatality and injury rate, and the lowest rate of cycling by women, children, and seniors. New York has built the most bikeways since 2000 and has been especially innovative in its use of cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes, bike traffic signals, bike boxes, and sharrowed streets. Yet New York has almost completely failed in the important areas of bike-transit integration and cyclist rights and falls far short on bike parking and cycling training. Moreover, the refusal of New York’s police to protect bike lanes from blockage by motor vehicles has compromised cyclist safety. New York has much to learn from the other case study cities, which have implemented a far more comprehensive, integrated package of mutually reinforcing policies to promote cycling.

The items I bolded are all closely linked — if you provide no training/education and enforcement of cyclist rights, and allow/condone the actions of a violent, anti-cyclist police force, you will end up with high numbers of fatalities and injuries. It’s not rocket science.

And all of the anti-cyclist policy of New York City is true even before they officially launch into their new hate campaign against cyclists. And this is not just JSK and the NYC DOT carrying out this campaign — it has the blessing of Paul Steely White and Transportation Alternatives. If I’m a cyclist in New York City right now, I’m on the phone with TA, DOT, and the Mayor, and I’m saying, “Are you trying to get me killed?”

New York is important to cycling — it is the largest city in America, it’s huge on the national and international cultural stage, America is still the car capital of the world, etc. If we can manage to turn the tide in New York City, anything is possible.

But it’s not all bad in New York City — Bill Cunningham New York, the film — is out. Check out the trailer, below:

Bill is the bike-riding NYC-based fashion photographer who really gave NYC Ciclovia a lift when he started covering some of the scenes of NYC’s events, dubbed Summer Streets.

Here are some of the superlatives Bill used to describe the 3rd summer streets event in The City:

  • really special
  • a total New York happening
  • the most extraordinary thing you ever saw
  • success like you’ve never known
  • everyone was out
  • a triumph for bikes
  • i never saw such a contraption in my life — it was terrific (about a 20-ft long bike)
  • all we can hope is they repeat it next summer
  • you can’t imagine what it was like — it was like the day after a blizzard, but a blizzard of bikes — if it happens again, get your rollerskates, get your inline skates, whatever you have on wheels, and get it out on Park Avenue.

Of course, every day in every city on every street, bridge, and tunnel throughout the world should be ciclovia — free to travel by bike without fear of being harassed, terrorized, or killed by marauding drivers. Who will be the next world city to take ciclovia to the next level, and do World Car-Free Day in a big way?

Hat tip: Washcycle.

Bike-sharing Bikes Should Have Baskets, Child Seats

April 25, 2011 By: Peter Smith Category: Advocacy

If you’re going to do a bike-sharing system, you might as well do it right. I noticed a bunch of bike-sharing systems provide real baskets (Hangzhou), and some just provide a weird type of rack that seems designed to make people lose things (Washington, DC).

Here’s a shot of a typical Hangzhou bike — with a real basket:

And here’s one of a typical DC bike — with a fake ‘basket’:

Pick a Bike by M.V. Jantzen

Cabi bike 'baskets

At least some of the bike-share bikes in Hangzhou have child seats — here’s a younger child being carried:

And here’s an older child being carried:

Hopefully the major bike-sharing providers are also thinking about adding other niceties like coffee/drink cup holders, etc.

Hat tip: @BikeToWorkBook.

Update: I emailed a few folks involved with Hubway, Boston’s bike share system-to-be, including Alta Bicycle Share (who will be running the system), Bixi (whose bikes will be used), Nicole Freedman (Boston’s bike point-person), Eric Bourassa (from the Boston-area Metro Area Planning Council), and a couple of other folks — and to their credit, almost everyone has gotten back to me already. I heard that the bikes a) won’t have child seats, but that b) ‘people would be contacted’, and that c) ‘there are liability issues’.

Well, life is filled with ‘liability issues’ — the question is, what do you have against parents? What do you have against single moms and single dads? What do you have against some of the most cash-strapped people in our society? Are these bikes toys, or are we trying to allow people to actually live without being dependent on motorized transport, either private automobile or public motorized transport? We know that if we want bikes to become a real option for a majority of people, then we have to cater to everyoneeveryone everyone, not just ‘everyone who is childless’.

And, anyone that was around for the early days of this petition knows that ‘liability issues’ was one of the main reasons cited by haters as to why “Google would never do this” — well, we know what happened with that.

Sydney has a ‘bike library’ — The Watershed Bike Library — to help parents get their kids and cargo around town — same concept. If it’s good enough for Sydneysiders, it’s good enough for Bostonites.

Update: The Bixi bikes have those pseudo-baskets with bungee cords because regular baskets “end up full of trash”. OK, no system is perfect, but we should definitely consider at least experimenting with some baskets, maybe even making them semi-transparent. Maybe each Bixi station should have built-in trash cans, complete with recycling, and a community billboard.

Update: Bixi bike ‘baskets’ useless.