Boulder & Denver bike-share: boon or boondoggle?

May 24th, 2011 by admin Categories: Opinion Editorials 2 Responses
Share on Twitter

Opinion Editorial
May 21, 2011

by Brian Schwartz

B-cycle is Boulder’s new bike share program. Denver’s B-cycle program is a year old. Does “B” stand for boon or boondoggle? The Boulder program’s start-up costs included half a million dollars taken from taxpayers: half collected by the City of Boulder, half from federalstimulusfunds. Denver B-cycle received $210,000 from the “stimulus.” Yes, B-cycle’s bikes and technologies do sound impressive. But if it’s a true boon, then it should have been able to raise sufficient start-up funds from investors, sponsors, and donors.

Some might argue that private funding could not have built B-cycle. But as economist Henry Hazlitt would say, B-Cycle “has in fact been built by private capital – the capital that was expropriated in taxes.” We won’t see the goods, services, and non-profit ventures that never materialize because governments took money by force from people who would have spent it differently.

Potentially expensive bike maintenance may deter private investors from investing in bike-share ventures. As law professor Steve Clowney describes: “No individual bears a significant portion of the costs if they damage a bicycle … users have little incentive to take care of the bikes.” The New York Times reports that sustaining Paris’s bike-share requires the repairing “some 1,500 bicycles a day,” or seven percent of its fleet.

Or maybe Montreal’s experience deterred investors. Because of high start-up costs, “the non-profit agency that runs the city’s bike-rental program … is running a $31.7 million deficit,” reported the CBC.

Voluntary donations, sponsorships, and investments should fund B-cycle. It should be a revenue source for Boulder and Denver, not an expenditure of taxpayers’ money. For example, they could charge B-cycle for placing “B-stations” on city-owned land.

A version of this article was published in the Boulder Daily Camera on May 21, 2011.

  1. GonzoDon says:

    Wow. Change a few of the words in this article, but keep the general tone, and it takes on quite a different flavor:

    “The U.S. military program’s start-up cost in 2010 was $663,800,000,000. An additional $37,000,000,000 was appropriated by Congress to support the wars in Afganistan and Iraq. Does “B” stand for “boon” or “budget-busting”?

    “If defense spending is a true boon, then it should be able to raise sufficient start-up funds from investors, sponsors, donors, and bake sales.

    “As economist Henry Hazlitt would say, military spending to support 737 U.S. military bases around the world ‘has in fact been built by private capital — the capital that was expropriated in taxes’.

    “Potentially expensive missile, jet fighter, drone, and traumatized-soldier maintenance and lifetime medical care may deter private investors from investing in military ventures.

    “Voluntary donations, sponsorships, and investments should fund the military. For example, they could charge gas guzzlers an extra fee for gasoline whose artificially low at-the-pump price is in fact subsidized by expensive U.S. military intervention in oil-rich countries around the world.”

  2. GonzoDon says:

    Wow again. Is there anybody in the real world who actually READS this web site? I posted the above comment about 10 weeks ago, and I note that it has generated exactly zero response. Talk about lively civic discussion. I’ve seen websites devoted to corn meal that generate more interest. Keep up the awesome work, i2i! You’re clearly on the opinion-driving cutting edge of … um … SOMEthing. LOL.