By Chason Gordon
– The Capitol Hill Times –
As you know (or perhaps you don’t, I don’t want to presume), zoologists have noted that Seattle is filled with taut creatures riding two-wheeled metal contraptions that allow them to cover more space than simple primitive walking. It is colloquially known as a “bike culture.” They zip and zoom down the streets like wingless dragons, with calves as tight as drums and steel bike frames stained with the sweat of urban living. Ooooooh.
Our mayor is one of these creatures, so much so that he is occasionally referred to as Mayor McSchwinn, which causes me to picture a bicycle standing on one wheel in front of podium while gesturing with its handle bars (“We must not judge a vehicle by the quantity of its wheels…”). McGinn has been a champion of the Bike Master Plan, otherwise known as “Why Aren’t You Riding a Bike Yet?” and will not rest until every man, woman, and out of shape humor writer has their fat ass on a bike seat.
The latest salvo in this hearts and minds campaign is the plan to bring a bike share program to Seattle in 2013, which is being organized by Puget Sound Bike Share, a local nonprofit. A bike share program is a system where users may walk up to an automated bike rack, rent a bike, and spend the rest of the day looking like a dork. Planners intend the program to fill the gaps left by public transportation, though this isn’t a problem for me, because I get everywhere by letting cars pull me on my skateboard. The initial phase would install 500 bicycles (and 10 unicycles) in downtown, South Lake Union, Eastlake, Capitol Hill, the University District, and Sand Point, and is expected to cost approximately $3.7 million, meaning the 500 bicycles will be made out of gold.
You’re probably wondering what this whole bike sharing system is all about. As someone who used to live in Montreal, home to one of the most successful bike sharing programs on the continent, let me tell you something. I…uh…well to be honest I literally never used it once, so I don’t really have much to say. People seemed to be enjoying themselves and I think it worked pretty well, as far as I could tell. Boy this is awkward. Listen, why don’t you turn around for a second so I can jump to the next paragraph.
There are various concerns about bringing a bike share program to Seattle, one of which is the law mandating bike helmets (if Seattle makes another law we get a free law!). Organizers plan to mitigate this issue by featuring helmet vending machines (lamest vending machine ever) at the bike stations. Of course the helmet vending machines will function just like regular vending machines, so sometimes you’ll pay for one helmet and miraculously get two, and sometimes the helmet will get stuck, causing you to shake the vending machine until it accidentally falls on top of you, which would be a damn shame, because that’s when you’ll really need the helmet.
Another concern brought by cycle advocates (is this a thing?) is that it’s dangerous to thrust casual cyclists into downtown areas that do not feature the proper bike lane infrastructure. Are you watching this car people? This is exactly how you strike at the heart of the bicycle movement. Divide and conquer. One thing I know in my gut – which means I did not research this – is that hardcore cyclists will hate the people using these shared bikes. Admit it! They represent the bastardization of a way of life. Just look at the shared bicycles being used in other cities. They look like what would happen if a bicycle sold out and put on a suit. These stiff, conservative amalgamations of metal represent an utter contradiction to the fringe and rebel nature cyclists enjoy. I can picture a future in which a hapless tourist is riding a shared bike and suddenly finds himself surrounded by gritty Seattle cyclists. “Are you enjoying your government bike square? Get him!”
I just hope the organizers take the time to ensure the feasibility of bike sharing in Seattle, because if the stations failed, removing them would be like removing braces midway because the parents’ check bounced (the pavement would scream with pain, it would be a whole thing). I don’t know what’s supposed to happen when literally everyone in Seattle is on a bicycle. Perhaps it will fulfill some old prophecy and a giant hand will descend from the sky and pat everyone on the back. In any case, I’m just looking forward to the day when someone riding a shared bike collides with a Zipcar. It will be tragic, but still kind of funny.