Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From the BSNYC Culture Desk (Part II): Free DVDs!

As the world watched an historic election unfold, a different scenario played itself out in the alternate reality that is this blog:


Yes, as of this morning, with 90% of precincts reporting it looks like Ralph Nader and his running-mate, the Swiffer® WetJet® All-In-One Power Mop, have taken a narrow victory:



Unfortunately, Nader could not deliver a victory speech, as he was on the set of a new buddy comedy called "Click It or Ticket" in which he co-stars with Martin Lawrence. (And I'm not going to spoil it by telling you which one will be wearing the fat suit.) But if you saw the speech I'm sure you'll agree the Swiffer was eloquent enough for the both of them:

It's truly inspiring when you consider that we are one botched stunt away (Nader always performs his own stunts) from being governed by a household appliance.

Moving on, I recently received an email from a real live publicist, who informed me that the New York City PBS affiliate WNET would be showing back-to-back episodes of the series "e2" on November 6th. One of these episodes, "Paris: Vélo Liberté," is narrated by Brad Pitt and is about the Vélib bike-sharing program, and apparently screener copies were available on request.

Now I don't know about you, but when I hear the words "Brad Pitt" and "PBS" used together, I pay attention. And when I also hear "bikes" and "free DVD" I know I've just stumbled onto something big. Not only that, but I'm very interested in bike-sharing, since I am the inventor of the "Take a Pista, Leave a Pista" program. So naturally I requested the DVD, which I watched with interest.

Of course, I have two requirements when watching anything that has to do with France. Firstly, I need to see the Eiffel Tower immediately. Secondly, there had better be baguettes. So I'm pleased to report that not only did the episode open with this tantalizing "up the skirt" shot of everybody's favorite antenna:



But there was also a baguette in a bicycle basket:


As well as sur la table in a spartan kitchen and accompanied by olive oil and wine:



Sufficiently convinced that I was watching something authentic and authoritative, I allowed myself to pay more attention. With the help of city officials and people involved in the Vélib program, Brad Pitt explained that Paris has recently begun taking away space from cars and giving it to other forms of transit, and that the plan is to cut traffic 40% by 2020. Obviously, Vélib is a part of this, and it's become the largest and most successful bike-sharing program in the world.



Basically, the way it works is that you pay a modest subscription fee, and you can then use the bikes free for the first half-hour. This is to encourage the kinds of short trips Parisians tend to make, such as going to the market to purchase baguettes and cigarettes, picking up their corduroy sports jackets from the dry cleaners, and cheating on their spouses or life partners. Once you go past a half hour, you're charged, and the charge increases exponentially. While this is a good thing in that it keeps Vélib turnover high, I would imagine it has also taken a bit of the passion out of aldulterous liaisons since visiting lovers are no doubt reluctant to go past the half-hour mark. Here we see what very well could be a frugal sex partner rushing to the nearest Vélib station after a truncated rendez-vous:



And efficient copulating followed by quick riding isn't always enough to save you money. Apparently the fine for running a light in Paris is €90 (which even at the falling exchange rate is still almost $4,000):



As for the bikes themselves, it seems the program's architects faced a significant challenge in convincing people that riding a bicycle is not a symbol of lowered social status, and that the Vélib is not their "grandpa's bicycle." At the same time, they also had to design something durable that could be ridden by a variety of people day after day. Unfortunately, their original design was already taken, hence the appearance of the Vélib as it is now. Of course, it may seem ironic that the host country of the world's most famous bicycle race has to persuade its citizens that they won't look foolish on a bicycle. Then again, when it comes to the Tour the French have mostly been pack fodder since like 1985.  Also, road cycling isn't always pretty--even in Paris:


Hence, the Vélib bike:


I should point out that the subtitle above refers to the bicycle, and not the rider.  

I should also point out that one of the few problems with the Vélib program is that people generally don't return bicycles to stations that are situated on hills, since Parisians only want to ride down hills and not up them:


This means that the hilltop stations need to be replenished via truck.  I found this interesting in that this innate aversion to climbing might very well explain why the French perform so poorly at the Tour.  To address this problem, Vélib planners will soon start giving riders who return their bikes to hill stations 15 free minutes.  Not only will this serve as an incentive to climb, but over time it will probably also restore the French to Tour greatness thanks to these frugality-inspired hill repeats.  Beyond that, the better climbers will almost certainly use their 15 free minutes for their sexual liaisons, which means that these liaisons will be more likely to result in pregnancy, which in turn means that the next generation of French people will probably be great climbers.  So I would expect a long streak of French Tour wins starting in around 2030.

By the way, if you're wondering how these bikes are maintained, at least some of them are serviced on a bike shop barge that travels up and down the Seine:



I agree that a floating bike shop is a "brilliant idea not to be missed," and it's also a great argument for having a full-blown bike-sharing program here in New York City.  After all, we New Yorkers are an island people (mostly) and there's water everywhere.  I often fantasize about being a seafaring bike shop proprietor, complete with a tri-corner hat, eye patch, and a parrot who repeats my bon mots.   In fact, most of the Great Hipster Silk Route travels along the East River.  I smell something, and that smell is opportunity (with a hint of low tide).

Indeed, it would appear that Parisians are making great strides in reclaiming their streets from excessive motor vehicle traffic.  Unfortunately, one of those strides apparently includes something called "Friday Night Fever," which is kind of like Critical Mass on rollerblades:



And perhaps best (or worst) of all, Vélib stations are becoming big pick-up spots:



I was disinclined to believe this, since it was Brad Pitt who was making this claim, and while a woman at a Vélib station might enjoy being hit on by a movie star she'd probably just hit a regular person with her baguette.  But then they interviewed some goofy French comedian who corroborated Pitt's claim, so there you go.  Just remember, though, that while the first half-hour is free some of those STDs can last forever.

In any case, it was pretty interesting and since PBS is free you might as well check it out tomorrow night.  (It's on at 9:30PM, at least here in New York.)  And while we don't have a full-blown bike-sharing program here in New York we are getting more protected bike lanes:



And where there's construction, there are unattended power tools.  That means you can easily grab one and use it to cut through a few Kryptonite locks.  And that's bike sharing New York City style.

88 comments:

Spokes... said...

1 st

Anonymous said...

Woot Woot

Anonymous said...

what up...cooper

Anonymous said...

suck my post haters

Anonymous said...

suck my post haters

Anonymous said...

suck my post haters

Anonymous said...

fukk yeah

Anonymous said...

fantz crazznapper

Anonymous said...

Meh

ant1 said...

ant1st!

Anonymous said...

JV Sideburns

Top Ten

Anonymous said...

podium?

plainfast

John said...

damn, pack fill as usual. Gobama!

Anonymous said...

Barack out with yo cock out

red neckerson said...

What the fuck happened

dmitri fofonov said...

We move missles into Poland now and Mr. World Popular does nothing. This to be much easier than we dream to.

brettok said...

!st Australian, wheel sucking Cadel-style...

Anonymous said...

Louis Farrakan has just been appointed secretary of stickin' it to the white man

Anonymous said...

nice work bike snob, those frenchie bikes are severely cool in person.

Anonymous said...

Wealth redistribution program starts with free 24" spinners. They spinnin' they spinnin'

Critical Ass said...

For those of us that already have 5 bikes, I think there should be a big-ass SUV sharing program for those trips to Home Depot. And maybe some community Peugeots or Citroens for sexual liasons too.

Clayton said...

NYC got sonned. By Paris.

Caaah said...

Where are the new protected bike lanes? Hopefully they're somewhere that cattle...er, pedestrians don't wander down them aimlessly. I can't take Broadway home at all now because of the "protected" bike lanes.

Philboy said...

Check it out Snobby, the German railroad has a simliar program in several cities:
http://www.callabike-interaktiv.de/kundenbuchung/process.php?proc=english&f=500

Also check it out, these guys hacked it: http://www.ccc.de/hackabike/

red neckerson said...

why do we want welch redistribution they can all stay in england i dont like sean connery hes welch you cant trust any of them there worst than canadians fuck them

Paris Hilton said...

Oh Red, you're such a silly poophead! No one believes you're such a cynic. ps. missed you last night sweetheart--swing by tonight?

Slappy said...

All you Obama voters suck my balls.

TheBlackRider said...

I really wish you'd filter these comments, Snob. Most of this stuff is irrelevant and obnoxious. That said, how to they prevent bike theft in this French system. Salt Lake City was considering a similar set up but didn't go through with it for fear the bikes would be stolen or raped of their parts. Thieves ruin things for everyone.

ice cube said...

I am all for a bike sharing program. Leaving your bike locked-up in front of your mistresses appartment is such a bad idea!!

Bike New Haven said...

There's only one thing worse than hearing about transportation solutions in other cities and not mine - hearing about it from a celebrity!

Anonymous said...

anon1st!
Bike share New York style.
Classic

Nick said...

Bike sharing via power tool....

kale said...

No frog wants to ride 22kg (321 lbs) of bike up Menilmontant. The risk of unclipping is too high, but the float's great for ze knees.

Anonymous said...

@ theblackrider

I think the answer, and the reason why Berlin has had success with this is two fold. First, you get a bike so hysterically ugly, bulky, and unique enough that it can easily be distiguished as being government property, that no one in their right mind would want to steal the damn thing. The French seem to have touched upon atleast a few of these tokens. Supply and demand also suggests that if these things are abundant enough that the value drops and therefore becomes worthless to a thief. It's the same reason why people don't steal taxi cabs.

Secondly, and perhaps more to the point, a lot of these things have built in locking systems that make them more difficult to steal than sayyy a chain looped through a quick release front wheel

mr.complaint said...

What? No OBAMA!!!?

wishiwerepithy said...

CA, get your own lemons and pepper mill. Cheap bastard. Who would want to use the communal ones after some weirdo has been having sexual liaisons with them?

Anonymous said...

woah, people steal things in the SLC?

Camp Cupboard said...

Some of them do get stolen, but they purposefully made the bicycles heavy (I think around 60 pounds), ugly gray colored, with most parts covered or bolted down.
It'll never work in the US because of how overly litigious everyone is. You'd have to sign twelve documents and get them notarized and fingerprinted every time you wanted to rent one.

ice cube said...

No one steals anything in xSLCx!

Jim said...

>>>After all, we New Yorkers are an island people

Yep. And when I think of the pretty ladies of the Islands, I think of the sultry doe-eyed gals of Tahiti, the lovely wistful dark-haired lasses of Polynesia, and Marge from Perth Amboy, the 319 pound tollbooth attendant who gives me a smoldering glare as she takes my money when I cross the GW Bridge. Mmmmmm... New Yorkers are a lovely island people indeed! Ma'halo, New York!

zellbergbuam said...

That same system is being used in Vienna- apparently the city tried this initially a few years ago, and all of the bikes ended up getting stolen (disappearing into the "former east bloc", if you believe the cynical locals).

This time around, the bikes are heavy, ugly, ride like shyte (the tires are solid rubber...!) and the bolts are strange, so that normal tools don't work on them.

Anonymous said...

Paul Gauguin like ze islands, but ze Nuveau York, no so much.

ant1 said...

instead of giving people bikes that can be stolen, how about moving sidewalks? hard to steal one of those.

Anonymous said...

Moving sidewalks? How about people just get off their lazy butts and walk?

andrew rosenberg said...

nothing anti-semetic here... why bother reading then, oh culture, french culture, oui

Marcel said...

Bike Snob, I live in France and I just have no idea where you get all this stuff about Paris being all about free sex. Anyhow, Paris isn't the only town to run one of those systems, Bordeaux has a great one too. Traffic congestion makes it viable, along with highly taxed gas, which provides the motivation for using less car. Plus high inflation which means no money for using public transport. So you are well on the way in the States, as you are apparantly going bust and have no public transportation system worthy of mention.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Snob: First, you are right about the perception of cycling as a lower-social-status activity in France. While here in the States, cycling is seen as a largely upper-class pursuit, in France it is seen as a way for a young man to escape from a life of poverty, much like playground basketball here.
Second, we do not want upskirt photos of the Eiffel tower, we want upskirt photos of Frilly. Don't you read your own comments? Make it happen, dude.
Finally, I understand that they recently started a similar bikeshare in Montreal called "Bixi." I wonder if Commiecanuck, our resident expert on all things Canadian, has traded his Cervelo for a purloined Bixi.

ant1 said...

I'm not lazy, but don't want to have to spend an hour and a half walking to and from work everyday. a 10 minute ride on a moving sidewalk, or a bike, makes a lot more sense.

ant1 said...

marcel - i live in the US and just have no idea about where you get all this stuff about the US having no public transportation system worthy of mention.

Brad Pitt NAKED said...

It's probably balsamic not wine with the baguette on the table in the spartan French kitchen.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Marcel,

I got that idea from movies, though maybe I'm thinking of Rome. Like in "Blow-Up." Though that was London, wasn't it? Now I'm all confused!

--RTMS

Anonymous said...

Don't worry snobbie, you are right on, I too live in France and it is sex, sex, and more sex. Sorry, gotta go and have le sex.

Marlon brando said...

ahh..yes...le sexe in Paris..pass the butta.

Anonymous said...

so, who won?

ant1 said...

politicians

leroy said...

RTMS --

Your confusion is entirely understandable.

If memory serves, Blow-Up contains the memorable line from a London party scene where a louche bon vivant is addressed:

"I thought you were in Paris."

To which he responds:

"Darling, we are in Paris."

Well, at least now the poor fellow can look out the window for a large ironic Gray's Papaya bike to get his bearings straight.

(BTW, can you at least tell us if the Velib bikes are carbon fiber or do we have to watch the PBS after school special to find out?)

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim,

One of the most iconic of all island songs, Jamaica Farewell, that sets many a NY mind to dreaming of warm beaches in January, was written by a young islander who hailed from that tropical island paradise colloquially known as "Long," (province of Brooklyn).

Of course the young man's father was actually from, well, Barbados actually, but it's not like New Yorkers even known there's a fucking difference, so what the hell.

Marcel said...

Cycling in France like basketball in the States as a way for the socialy handicapped to ascend the ladder to riches ? Hey, that was back in the Paleolithic, like 1960. Nowadays, it's all affluent and flabby 50 year olds in pink lycra racing gear on carbon things that have 47 gears with a low of 22x48.
Ant1: you have urban public transport in the States ? You mean hitchhiking, right ? And Bikesnob, you got confused, this place is like any other, you want sex, you have to pay for it. It's all a myth. The place for free sex is Holland, or Iceland, because they get 6 months of night there and since they can't club baby seals anymore, they need a way to alleiviate boredom.

ant1 said...

marcel - I mean like the new york subway system, or the one in chicago, or the buses through the major cities... What we don't have as much of is passenger rail, which is understandable considering the distances between cities.

leprechaun said...

Leroy,

Also of note in Blow up, the band in the party scene is the Yardbirds and Jeff Beck trashes his guitar. The other guitarists is Jimmy Page.

Mark said...

Slappy

WORD!

Jennifer Sage said...

I too wish you would filter the replies Snob...it's easy to do on Blogger, and after awhile, they know they would be filtered and won't get their ego boost from "being 1st" or "podium", and will hopefully go away, making your time commitment to filtering them even less. and allowing others to actually enjoy this blog and responding even more. Otherwise I normally hate reading your responses, whereas for something as fun as this topic, it's quite entertaining to read what people say!

I wonder where those of use who live in the west can watch this program?

frilly said...

Go Swiffer! I have one & I love that thing. Except it doesn't corner well.

Snob, thanks for the idea on how I can upgrade my POS. Yes, sad I know, but one of those would totally be an upgrade.

Merckx, even if I did let Snob snap a few pics, I'm sure they would be completely unrecognizable given his photography skills. (Sorry snob.) New subject please.

leroy said...

Marcel --

Cycling in France consists of flabby 50 year olds in pink lycra kits?

No wonder Lance came out of retirement.

He is so going to dominate the Tour next July.

I don't care if those flabby 50 year olds are riding carbon triples.

Leprechaun --

Thanks, I had forgotten that about Blow Up. Clearly, the guitar trashing merits an NC-17rating.

Jennifer Sage --

Doesn't Bike Snob already have enough on his pie plate?

I say we each filter the comments for ourselves.

You know, sort of an "Ask not what your RTMS can do for you, ask what you can do for your RTMS" sort of thing.

Gnarles Darwin said...

Portland Oregon had the yellow bikes but they all got stolen and sold for Meth.

kale said...

BlackRider, Jennifer Sage-

You expect Snob to take time out of his/her day to proofread every asinine comment? I also wish the comments were silver dipped and written by Oscar Wilde, but that's not going to happen.

...AYHSM1st

leroy said...

Gnarles Darwin --

I believe you misread about the yellow bikes in Portland, Oregon.

They were abandoned for meh, not stolen for Meth.

Remember, this is the slacker Northwest we're discussing.

Gnarles Darwin said...

Leroy,
You are right, my bad. Just speculating, but those Meth Heads they got out west can be awfully motivated when it comes to scoring some Meth.

dmitri fofonov said...

I am finding Jennifer Sage's comments to be without relevence. Babushka say if she ever to meet her she is to kick her ass.

kale said...

LeRoy and Gnarles-

Since when has methamphetamine been a proper noun?

sprider said...

jennifer sage, take the stick out of yer butt.

frils, thanks for taking the wind out of their sails, it behooves you to be demure.

excuse me now, as all this talk of Italian films has me looking for an Antonioni blog.

frilly said...

Sprider, I figured it was about time to change my underwear.

Hey, btw, thats a podium from ToM. Took the picture myself, thank you.

Andy Pandy said...

I would not be seen half dead haulin one of those lugs up a hill for 15 free minutes of ooompah loompah with some Parisian wench. Its 6.7 kgs of crabs-on black stealth machine or foot power.

Frills try a set of ProRace 3’s at around 110 psi

frilly said...

AP, thanks for the tip, however a couple of sheets of Bounty usually does the trick.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Frills, thanks for being such a good sport. From here on forward, I pledge to cease any further online sexual harrassment of Frilly.

Anonymous said...

Share a car,buy a bike.

mander said...

Top shelf material today, RTMS.

Commiecanuk said...

Public transportation? shared bikes?
Obama? Ralph Nader? Palin losing? what the fuck, is this the new America? One day, and it's like f'ing Sweden in here.

Who are we going to laugh at now? This is no fun.

Bring Back Mulleted Ignorant Pickup Drivin Rednecks with Automatic Weapons, (BBMIPDRAW), the America I grew up to understand.

Frilly, that podium pic doesn't do it for me..it's not movin'.

frilly said...

How 'bout this? Its a little snobbish in the focus dept. However my arse was about to get run over, those guys were moving fast!

Anonymous said...

DC has a bike share program going. If these things have not gotten stolen there then they could work anywhere!
https://www.smartbikedc.com/

Steve Stenzel said...

Nader/Wet Jet?!?

What? WTF?!?

;)

Anonymous said...

BikeSnob NYC: always one step ahead of the mainstream media!

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/09/europe/pedal.php

Yogi said...

to those who say naught but race to be placed comments.. Pull that cassette outa yer asses. and get on yer sprung saddles

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