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Why Seattle can’t be Paris when it comes to bike sharing

Bike sharing is coming to Seattle. You’re going to see clusters of rental bikes parked in these big clamps that you open by swiping a credit card.

In the Seattle Times, Danny Westneat, who is just back from Paris — otherwise known as the city of bikes, is all high on bike sharing, but he says Seattle’s version has a fatal flaw.

The thing that will stop it from catching on with anyone beyond the Lycra crowd: bike helmets.

You would have to rent a potentially smelly, lice-infested bike helmet or risk getting stopped by the cops and fined $104.

Otherwise he’s high on the idea and loved seeing so many bikes in Paris. They have 20,000 public rental bikes with stations every 400 yards. But as I Googled around (sorry, Binged around) stories about thefts started cropping up. The first year of the program, something like 80 percent of the bikes were either vandalized or stolen, most of it, according to the articles, because of Paris’s perennially seething eastern European and African immigrants who’ve had trouble integrating into Parisian society. They need the money and they resent the upscale Parisian types who typically use the bikes.

Since then, the vandalism rate has gone down, and the bikes are really popular.

As for rental rates: The first half hour is free, then one euro for the first hour, 7 Euros for two, if you end up keeping the bike all day – 131 Euros.

If the city thinks it’ll make money – keep in mind, the French vandal-proof bikes cost 3,400 Euros each to buy.

The other thing Paris has is a lot of bike exclusive lanes that are separated from the street and not just by paint, but by sidewalks or other barriers. You don’t feel like you’re in Death Race 2000.

Sometimes, like in Amsterdam, you have your own traffic lights. And the other thing, Paris, like Amsterdam, is mostly flat, so you don’t get to work all sweaty. And if you do, it doesn’t matter there because no one cares about deodorant anyway.

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