Citi Bike: dignified, progressive, worldly, healthy. Right?
On the surface, maybe. But, what if it also signifies...the end of the world?
Slate writer Paul Ford brilliantly toys with this idea in "The Official Transportation of the Apocalypse," one of the more imaginative reads we've enjoyed this month. Perhaps Citi Bike raises locals' suspicions, because it's so optimistically novel, logical, and pristine (the opposite of "gritty" New York City values). When anything actually works with relative ease, New Yorkers gain suspicion (check out Lou Reed's fear of Sweden). And, if it's good for you, cue even more cynicism. Then, of course, there's the fact that New Yorkers ride bikes like homicidal missiles.
Where you appreciate Citi Bike's durability, Ford is thinking how this human-pedaled (read: fueled) machine might fare under otherworldly attack: "...If you think post-apocalyptically, that gear ratio means a very efficient bike for carrying heavy loads [...] You could find a way to attach a hitch to the back of a Citi Bike and that could carry, say, a laser cannon, or a seat for the local warlord," he quips. We'd add that in a "Last Person Alive" scenario, Citi Bike could provide the ultimate breezy getaway: Just imagine pedaling cross-country without having to look out for other traffic (minus all the bombed-out cars). You'd also be able to escape a leisurely-paced chemical spill, or stand a chance against invasions — unless, of course, they were the speed-zombie variety a la 28 Days Later.
It's a shame more doomsday films don't recognize this potential. Ford, too, is annoyed by its glaring absence, citing the TV Tropes' "No Bikes in the Apocalypse" page as proof that bicycles — which don't require electricity or gas! — are overlooked by the genre. When they are included, as in World War Z, they immediately signify vulnerability and imminent doom. "It was obvious from the moment you first saw these old janky bikes that they were going to cause trouble," Ford sighs. Not fair, he says, and we agree: Those who ride are those who survive.
But, it's not just Citi Bike's Darwinian-proof hardiness that makes it conducive to the end times. Where some see a utopian, socialistic transit-share program, Ford sees great potential for dystopian surveillance. He reminds us: "Three million rides have been made, three million swipes of the little Citi Bike keyfob that is used to keep track of who has which bike for how long." And, of course, where you end up, but that kind of monitoring will be necessary for our quarantined colony to remain secure. When it comes time to ensure the survival of the fittest, we'll be going Citi Bike. [SLATE]