Jack Tame: City moving from four wheels to two


We rode in a giddy peloton, three backpackers on bikes at about 3am on a warm June morning. Paris was still, traffic was distant, and the only thing to break the peace was our faux race commentary.

"Armstrong ... surging to the front ... here he comes ... LANCE ARMSTRONG!"

If you've never ridden the Tour de France, I can assure you that cycling the Champs-Elysees is one of life's true pleasures. The share bikes we'd picked up for about €2 apiece were a little ungainly and all came with girls' frames, but they were easily sturdy enough to allow for a competitive sprint finish.

"Armstrong ... ARMSTRONG!"

From restaurant to roost - via two of the city's 1500 docking stations - we were home and laughing in 15 minutes.

Having experienced similar impressive bike-sharing programmes throughout Europe, I've been intrigued by the long-awaited introduction of a similar scheme in New York. In a city not known for its abundance of roadside parking spaces, there are now even fewer places to dock the Mitsi. Instead, slabs of Citi-bikes, sponsored and funded entirely by Citibank, have been set at some 300 roadside stations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, with more than 6000 bikes waiting to be ridden.

Predictably enough, the first few days of the scheme have been marked by the odd problem. Some commuters have had issues docking their rides while others have been confused by the pricing structure.

But expansion is already planned. Within a few years in New York, you'll be able to hire one of 10,000 bikes and ride along an ever-expanding network of dedicated cycle lanes, before dropping it off at one of more than 600 stations.

All this, in a city notorious for its chaotic roads. Investing in motorways might encourage sprawling development of quarter-acre sections, but almost 400 cities worldwide now boast bike share programmes.

Sure, Citi-bikes are heavy and I'll look like a tool and they only come in girls' frames. But there are lots of them. They're accessible. They might even be a bit of fun. Sex and the City? Hmmph. We'll be saddle sore in the city, from now on. "Armstrong, ARMSTRONG!"

- Herald on Sunday

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