An Amusement & Diversion for The Genteel Cyclist. Daily.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Free bikes! Really crappy!

In Europe, there are lots of efforts afoot to put free bikes on the streets of cities like London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Generally speaking, the idea is to help folks transition to human-powered transportation, at the same time conveying them "the last mile" from where public transportation ends to wherever they're headed. But this is a new twist: A couple of business school grads are launching a service to provide free bikes to college students in Wales. The goal? To reduce or eliminate bike theft, sort of like the transportation equivalent to legalizing pot.

Hundreds of bicycles are stolen from students in Wales every academic year – with 300 reports of theft annually in Cardiff alone. The density of bikes in student living areas, and the fact that many aren’t adequately secured, make them an easy target for thieves. But a scheme that will lend bicycles to students in Cardiff free of charge looks set to change that when it is implemented at the start of the next academic year in September.

The problem with this plan is this: Only worthless bikes won't get stolen. Most serious bike thieves--the kind that target university campuses and college towns--don't steal bikes in order to ride them. They steal 'em to strip 'em and sell 'em.

We'll file this one under "Dynacrappy," because the bikes will all come from China, ensuring that they'll be all but unrideable. This appears to be a Catch-22: either the bikes will suck too much to be ridden by anyone, or they'll still get stolen. If Wales is anything like anywhere we've ever been, there are free crappy bikes already abandoned all over the place.

Come to think of it, free legal pot would probably succeed better than a free Magna. Unless college has changed dramatically since we matriculated.

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