Editorial: Red Bike’s struggles didn’t need to happen

Published 9:16 am Saturday, May 5, 2018

This week’s news that there would be no Red Bike Program this year and that the idea for a future program is uncertain is a sad note for a program that had no other intention than to better Austin.

One of the more visible successes of the Vision 2020 initiative, the Red Bike Program was the end result of many volunteers donating hours and hours of time on gathering bikes, adapting the bikes, repairing and painting the bikes and maintaining the idea of easily accessible transportation around town.

The group operated under the simple mantra of “Ride. Respect. Return,” which depended on the goodwill of those using the bikes to simply behave responsibly. That’s all it took. Simple, common, human decency. What the goodwill gesture got in return, however, was the exact opposite.

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Steve Kime, Vision 2020 Biking and Walking Committee chairman, was clearly frustrated when asked for comment in the Herald’s story on the problems with the program.

“‘Ride, respect, return’ is not a sustainable model,” he said. “There were times when bikes were not available in the racks. We would receive some that were in need of repair and some were not repairable.”

This should not have been a program plagued with this many problems. The Red Bike Program gave people an alternative to get from one place to another either for practical purposes or to simply enjoy a pleasant ride on a sunny day. The reward was stolen and wrecked bikes by people who clearly didn’t think or cared about all the effort put into this program.

We support the initiative of not only the Biking and Walking Committee, but Vision 2020 in general. On paper, this program should have been given the opportunity to flourish and reward the community with cheap, enjoyable recreation. Instead, it has been, at best, disrupted by an immature few who simply could not live up to simple decency and responsibility; part of the public who doesn’t really care about the hard work so many put in to bringing Austin something good.

We hope the Biking and Walking Committee continues on with this push to bring bikes to the public, in whatever form it takes.

Kime told the Herald that while frustrated with the development, the committee will continue to work toward a bike share program, though perhaps on a more restrictive level that would allow them to see who checked out a bike and allow for greater accountability. This is highly commendable, especially in a situation where people might easily understand if they put their efforts elsewhere.

Either way, this is a development that shouldn’t have happened.

What this all hinges on is the very real and simple idea of respect. You may not agree with Vision 2020’s purpose or you may not agree with what individual committees are doing. You may ignore it altogether because you have no vested stake in a certain idea. Either way you turn, all anyone really needs to do is have simple respect for a group just trying to do a little bit of good for the community we all live in.

In the end, nobody wants to say of Austin: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”