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Paris bike-system vandalism: Urban myth or not?

November 1st, 2009 · 22 Comments

A couple of people have alerted me to the fact that there appears to be another round of media stories appearing about vandalism to Paris’s bike-share system. A story from the New York Times that appeared last week repeats many of the same themes as one that appeared on the BBC a couple of weeks ago.

This happens to be of local interest because Vancouver is still looking at importing this bike-share system here. (Though there won’t be a test run during the Olympics. City manager Penny Ballem squashed that idea, saying it would be expensive and impractical, given the like unfavourable weather and transportation complications during the Games.)

So it’s important to know whether this is really going to work when it gets here, or will all the bikes end up in False Creek. At least one writer has doubts about whether the situation is really as bad as Decaux makes it out to be.

And I have to say that when we were in Paris in June (and when a friend was there in July, cycling absolutely everywhere in the city on the Velib bikes), I saw no sign of rampant vandalism. There were always rows of immaculate-looking bikes lined up everywhere we went, hundreds of people riding them, and no signs of carcasses hanging from trees or lampposts.

One other little media tendency makes me wonder about this story, which is the penchant for pooh-poohing anything that seems too new-agey, socialist, idealistic. Media types just love those stories about the utopian dream falling apart: the commune started in bliss where everyone has ended up hating each other; the backyard chicken farms that have turned into avian horror stories; the early childhood education program that produced gang members.

So, bottom line, I’m not convinced yet this is more than hype with an agenda.

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