According to the Fargo Forum, that city’s experimentation with bicycle socialism has been a roaring success. Why, according to the Forum, people are even riding the bikes during the cold winter months!
It’s also instructive that the Fargo bike service is setting records in a place where winter is less than bicycle friendly. Those city officials and others who doubted the bike program would work often cited the long winter as a negative factor. They were wrong. While summer use has been spectacular, one of the major reasons the program is working so well is use by North Dakota State University students during the school year. That’s mostly winter.
The problem – and I honestly have no idea how the Forum made this mistake – is that this bike sharing program hasn’t actually been through a winter yet. It was launched this spring, in mid-March specifically, and was in existence for only about the last month of the school year.
I always wondered, given some of their editorial positions, in the Forum editorial board was living in their own version of reality. Maybe this is our answer.
Anyway, a few brief months of interest in the bikes is hardly a sign of success. Especially when the bike operations are being heavily subsidized. The Great Rides Bike service is getting a $450,000 subsidy from NDSU student fees and at least $30,000 from the City of Fargo.
If this bike service was such a wonderful business model, meeting real demand in the city, why did it need subsidies?
We’ll see what happens with the bike service when it is actually tasked with surviving a North Dakota winter, and when some of the novelty of it wears off. Maybe it can be successful – I’d be more enthusiastic if the enterprise weren’t on the dole – but color me skeptical.