Can’t (bicycle) Chain Me Down

by Christine Zhuang

In the grand old tradition of looking to the Europeans for acts of social and environmental advancements, several American cities such as Portland, San Francisco, Chicago have instituted a bicycle rental system similar to the very popular program in Paris which promote cycling over gas guzzling and environmentally unsound cars as an alternative form of transportation. After all, bicycles are cheap and eliminates the hassle of looking for a parking space to cram into. Then why are so many of these bicycle programs failing in the U.S.?

For one thing, it seems many of us simply cannot be trusted with returning bicycles. But there are bigger issues than just petty theft.

The U.S. is geographically much larger than all Western European nations, which explains our overreaching and sometimes overwhelming amount of highways and freeways. That said, there are not enough bicycle paths for people who live more than 5 mile from their workplace or school; especially in large cities where traffic laws are really seen as guidelines rather than regulations. And don’t get me started on those of us who find it very difficult to travel light and are too vain for perspiration.

The root of these bicycle sharing problems I find are buried deeper than the pretensions of efficiency. To have bicycles become the new wave of transportation is ideologically backwards. (Probably why so many opt for vintage bike models. Surely not for the kitsch.) Instinctively for many, the future revolves around moving forward. It is more pertinent for the government to focus on is improving the public transportation system in this country. A Green solution that would not only help the environment but lessen traffic. This is one Rise of the Machines I can get behind.

Photo by Joe S.

11 Responses to “Can’t (bicycle) Chain Me Down”

  • Caz Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, and support the use of more bicycles even if it is a step backwards.
    Anything to lessen global warming
    Awesome article

  • admin Says:

    Thanks Caz! I’m an avid urban cyclist and I try not to blow my top at motorists blocking the bike lanes. I do see more and more bikes out there… who know, maybe one day we’ll be blocking the car lanes :)

  • Doug Says:

    hmm….. seems to me that progress is about people having a higher quality of life. I started bike commuting to work in april,, my quality of life during my commute has greatly improved! I do have a place to safely park my bike at my workplace, perhaps employers should provide bike parking when possible.

  • admin Says:

    Right there with you, Doug. My gripe is with any public place that doesn’t offer bike racks or parking. I’ve gotten plenty of upturned eyebrows walking into stores with bike on shoulder.

  • Christine Says:

    I think the point of the piece is being overlooked. You really have to relate to the American population as a whole. It’s one thing that we live in a city that is environmentally conscious or at least are surrounded by a community that is, but biking is just not for everyone. Which is why improving and increasing public transportation is a better choice because it is more accessible and acceptable for the GENERAL population to base their lifestyle on.

  • Rich Awn Says:

    I can see how meeting the generally conceived notion of the American public halfway is the shortest distance between A and B, but evidenced by the mere addition of new urban bike lanes, bike parking, and bike racks, commuters are given more of an accessible option.

    What I’ve learned from your article is how Americans aren’t capable of handling themselves around property that isn’t theirs and how vanity keeps us from breaking a sweat even though we know it’s good for us (and stay tuned for an upcoming post on, “How to avoid sweaty clothes and still bike to work,” soon). Should we politely ignore our ugliness or burrow through bedrock for more subways?

    We’ve waited long enough for expensive infrastructural changes in public transportation. Street lines and bike racks are the cheap, effective alternative and new riders are using them every day. Lethargic, placated America needs to meet US halfway.

  • Green Weasel Says:

    Great article once again. Also I would like to point out that not only will we be saving our environment America as a whole just might get a bit more in shape. Instead of gaining a pound or two from eating some form of very greasy food on the way to work people will be losing a pound or two by riding their bikes there. Another great article, and I look forward to the next.

  • Rich Awn Says:

    True indeed, Green Weasel. We truly appreciate the input from you adn everyone on this spirited thread of comments. May the American commuter cycling revolution roll on!

  • smoggy brian Says:

    What is a bicycle but a mere accessory to strap to the roof of my hummer?

  • Rich Awn Says:

    Meh. Way to take the discussion way left and off the cliff. Get funnier if you wish to be ironic or provocative! Zzzzzzz…

  • Tracy Says:

    It should be noted that bicycle theft is just as common in major European cities as it is here in America. In some places such as Amesterdam, bike theft is a given and residents will even troll the “shady” bike shops to buy their bikes back. As for rental programs, while a wonderful idea, they are not as plentiful as one would imagine. In Copenhagen, Denamrk for instance you will be hard pressed to find a public bike in the summer and for some reason they store them in them winter and they are completely unavailable. It’s true America does have a long way to go but as your article points out we are also much bigger country. With rising gas prices, I’m sure we will start to see more bike trails, etc… as the public demands it.

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