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Deconstructing New York's Bike-Share Freak Out

Is the city really just "too mean" for shared bicycles?
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By the end of this month, New Yorkers should finally be able to start using Citi Bike, the city's long-delayed bike-share program. And thank goodness for that. For the last year, and even more so over the past several weeks since docking stations began to be installed all over the city, local media coverage has appeared to reflect something akin to a collective public meltdown over these bicycles. From the perspective of a city like Washington, D.C., where bike-share has not only been around for some time but proved to be a massive success, it's been a frustrating, if occasionally amusing, trajectory to watch unfold.

The bike-share doomsday scenarios dreamed up by New Yorkers, no doubt spurred on by the city's uniquely outraged tabloid newspaper culture, have ranged from funny to familiar. As a card-carrying member of Capital Bikeshare, it's been tempting to roll my eyes at every paranoid iteration, every incensed exclamation point, but the truth is that D.C. saw its share of bike-share blowback when the program first rolled out here. Any Washingtonians who've forgotten need only re-read my former colleague Dave Jamieson's account of the Lincoln Park docking station debate, complete with adults shouting expletives and publicly sobbing, to remind themselves. When big change comes to any big city, it's natural that our fears, however irrational, will get stirred up.