Urban bike experiment comes to town
Orange communal bikes to hit streets starting Friday

Starting Friday, Durangoans may notice an influx of orange bicycles scattered about town. The bikes aren’t a coincidence, but rather the work of a shadowy group calling itself Durango Free City Bike.

“This is what’s known as an anarchist bike program because no one puts their name to it,” said the DFCB spokeswoman and mastermind, Ms. X, who talked under the condition on anonymity. “When doing these sorts of things, people run into these walls of bureaucratic B.S., and I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.”

Calling the program an “experiment in community public transportation,” the premise of DFCB is easy enough: place unlocked bicycles at various locales throughout town for the free and unlimited use of citizens. The program is purely communal in nature: once a bike is left at one location, it is open game for someone else to use. The theory is that, although a person may return to find his or her same bike has been taken by someone else, another one is never far away. The program is based on the honor system with only a few caveats: place the bikes in racks when done; obey traffic rules; and confine use of bikes to the downtown area.

Right now, the DCFB has about 20 donated orange bikes ready to hit the streets sometime under the cover of darkness in the next few days. From there, and based upon community response, more will be released.

Although a free bike program is new in Durango, similar programs have been tried in several cities around the world with varying degrees of success.

“I lived in Copenhagen and their city bike program worked really well,” Ms. X said. “I thought it would be perfect for Durango.”

Right now, the DCFB is a loosely based, rag-tag group that is launching the program on a trial basis.

“We are by no means a professional operation,” said Ms. X. “We’re just a couple of people who want to see what will happen. It’s more of an experiment to see how people will react. Will people go for it?”

Ms. X said her group is well aware of the failure rate of such programs, thus the unattractive orange paint job. Not only is the paint, which covers the entire bike, including tires, meant to make the bikes easily identifiable, it also is meant to be a theft deterrent.

“We imagine it would be a pain in the ass to try to remove the paint,” she said. “That way, no one’s going to want to steal them. They look messy, but that’s intentional.”

However, Ms. X pointed out, theft is not the worst thing that could befall the program.

“We’re not encouraging people steal them, but if they do, hey, more power to them because at least they’ll be riding a bike,” she said.

What the group is concerned about is vandalism, and she encourages citizens to be vigilant and report any ne’er-do-wells who may be vandalizing, “ghost riding” or otherwise abusing the community bikes to DFCB.

In addition to honesty, she said the other main concern is that people are safe on the bikes.

“Obviously, we don’t want people to get injured,” she said. “Wear helmets, obey traffic rules and use lights at night.”

Ms. X also acknowledged the inevitable use of the bikes by inebriated individuals. And while she would like to remind everyone that riding a bike under the influence of intoxicating substances is against the law not to mention dangerous, she said it often is the lesser of two evils.

“Riding a bike drunk is better than getting into your car and hurting a truck full of kids,” she said. “About all you can do on a bike is inflict a minor wound to yourself.”

If all goes well, DFCB will release more bikes and expand its coverage area, she said. “Right now we’re just focusing on downtown Durango with the goal being to expand north to Norton’s and as far south as the Durango Mall,” she said.

Ultimately, she said the group would like to gain legitimacy and earn the support of the city, which could provide a blanket liability policy for the program.

In the meantime, Ms. X said the group would be content just knowing it’s making a difference – and maybe discouraging a few drivers in the process.

“Our message is, ‘Get out there and ride bikes and stop getting in your car to drive eight blocks,’” she said. “It would be nice to see so many bikes on Main that people driving say, ‘This sucks.’ That would be nice.”

DFCB needs unwanted bicycles and/or parts and volunteers to help with bike repair, fund raising and program management. To help or for information, e-mail durangofreecitybike@lycos.com or visit http://durangofreecitybike.tripod.com.








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