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Yellow Bikes: Lexington’s Civic Shame?

August 10, 2007

Two straight posts about biking? You bet.  I think about biking a lot, since it’s my primary mode of transportation.  I bike so much and drive so infrequently that now I can’t use my car, even if I wanted to.  The emergency brake fused together, and I suspect it’s because I don’t drive it enough, and when I do drive, I forget to use the emergency brake.

The real purpose of this post, though, is to call attention to Ace Weekly’s recent editorial about Lexington’s Yellow Bike Program.  To fill in those who don’t live in Lexington, a few months ago a fleet of 80 yellow bikes appeared around the downtown district.  The bikes, a gift from a downtown business organization, were given in hopes of cutting down on short car trips and improving traffic congestion in the downtown area.  The idea is fairly simple and has been piloted in several cities worldwide.  Participants in the Yellow Bike Program pay a one time fee of ten dollars, and they receive a universal key that unlocks each of the bikes.  Participants unlock a bike, ride it across town, and then lock it again, where anyone else in the community can borrow it.  Sounds great, right?

Well, as anyone familiar with Lexington might imagine, the Yellow Bikes have all but vanished from the downtown area.  The sight of one now is about as rare as health insurance peddlers at a Scientology convention.  People have taken them as private property, ridden them out to the suburbs, and otherwise confiscated them for private use.  In less than two months, it’s become undeniably apparent that Lexington’s attempt atprogressivism and environmental responsibility has failed miserably.

Recently, Yellow Bike Program members received notification that those violating the rules and hoarding bikes will face prosecution, an extreme course of action but one that, unfortunately, is necessary.  Has the Yellow Bike Program exposed one of Lexington’s  civic shames?  Perhaps not, but I believe the Yellow Bike Program is symptomatic of a deep-seeded mindset in this town that is extremely antagonistic toward the idea of community.

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4 Comments
  1. Steph permalink

    The Yellow Bike program seems like a good idea. It’s a shame that it didn’t work out. Has it been more successful in other cities?

  2. The Yellow Bikes Program website says that similar programs have been successful in “progressive” cities, like Austin TX, Portland, OR, etc. I guess that sheds some light as to why it’s failed here?

  3. Phil permalink

    The details are different, but Paris just initiated such a program this July.

  4. Frank Harris permalink

    Collectivism is a failed concept. The bike program in Paris, France even failed. Any Austrian economist would tell you before it started that it would fail due to the “tragedy of the commons” idea.

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