London’s Mayor: Bike Share Will Civilize New York

The New World can still learn a thing or two from the Old World – especially when it comes to transportation. Just as London had the tube before New York City got the subway, London has had a bike share in operation before New York City.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, was in WNYC’s studios and had some advice for The Big Apple’s foray into the world of bike sharing.

“My advice is, ‘Enjoy it.’ I think it’s high time that New York had it,” Johnson told WNYC’s Leonard Lopate on Monday. “It’s a great scheme; it will go well.”

Johnson said London’s bike share program has transformed street life in Great Britain’s capital city, and what New Yorkers should brace for. He thinks drives will recognize that there will be more bicycles on the street, and it will “civilize the place.”

“There’s nothing more immediately redolent of a village than loads of people wobbling around on bicycles,” Mayor Johnson waxed poetic.

Understandably, there are cultural differences between the two cities. If New York City is known for it’s brash, furious pace, London’s is known for its polite, keep calm and carry on mentality. Something that is likely to carry over into rules of the road when it comes to bicycles, cars and pedestrians.

But Johnson said London’s cyclists also don’t always follow all the rules of the road, noting that cyclists there have been known to run red lights, ride on the sidewalk and intimidate pedestrians — in other words act much like New York cyclists.

Despite such problems, bike shares have come a long way since the 1960s, when a Dutch anarchist  group collected several hundred bicycles, painted them white and left them lying around Amsterdam to be used for free–a bold stroke that inspired this super-groovy song. Today’s bike shares, like Barclay Cycle Hire in London, tend to be organized, branded and growing.

”We’ve seen a massive expansion of cycling in London. Last year alone, it’s gone up 15 percent,” Johnson said. “The cycle scheme we’ve got in is expanding very fast. We’re at something like 40,000 rides a day. We will go further.”

Still, the Mayor of London ended with a cautionary note about the police needing to crack down on bad actors.

“There’s got to be a reciprocal understanding by cyclists that they’ve got to obey the rules of the road,” he said.

Are you listening, New York City?

Here is a video about how London’s bike share works: