This Thursday, Tamarac residents will be able to hop on a bike for free, then take it for a spin, all at the expense of Humana, a health-care corporation that's out to encourage bicycle riding as an alternative to driving cars. But "Freewheelin," a program that first launched in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2007, arrives just as a similar program in Paris has been found to be a profound failure.
This recent New York Times article about that Paris' bicycle rental system suggests that the bikes have been used not purely as a means of transportation but also to express political frustration. The same poor and working-class people for whom the bikes could be most valuable appear to be stealing them and vandalizing them.
Like Paris' program, Freewheelin loans residents a bike in exchange for a swiped credit card. But in France, that didn't prevent
80 percent of the roughly 20,000 original bikes from ending up broken, thrown into the Seine, or sold on the black market. In Tamarac's case, there will only be 18 bikes, available weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at designated locations, like the Kings Point condominium complex. How long will those bikes last?