Too Much of a Good Thing

Usually, but not always, “anything worth doing is worth over-doing.”

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Chengdu has rightly encouraged the proliferation of public bicycles. These are accessed by scanning the bar code and paying virtually nothing per hour. But there is a deposit, ranging from 15 – 40 dollars equivalent, depending on the company. Apparently that is where these companies make their profit.

Ofo, Mobike and Blue Gogo are the main companies, with others coming up.

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If a bike is busted or has a flat tire, the customer can report it, and some bikes have self-reporting functions. They send out a distress signal and then, in the middle of the night, some van comes along and replaces the bike. All this will probably be done increasingly by robots.

When not overdone this all makes sense. People can rely less on cars, subways and buses, all of which get crowded.

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The problem is that the bikes are now becoming more than ubiquitious. It’s as if a plague of metallic locusts descended upon the city. Ironically, it is becoming more difficult in some areas to use these bicycles. There is little room to maneouver. Sometimes it is hard to park my regular bike, with the sidewalks so crowded.

On some streets, the bike-to-person ratio is rediculously imbalanced, beyond the point of economic rationality. So is the bike craze driven by super-subsidization? Ideological fervor? (Two wheels good, four wheels bad?) When I figure this out I will get back to you.

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Above, Mobike’s clever airless tires.

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My students and I out for… a bike ride.


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