Tragedie des Biens Communs



Today, NPR reports on the progress of the hot new bike share program in Paris, Velib—that's "velo" (bike) plus "liberté" (duh). Morning Edition finds that French administrators are shocked to discover that people are a little rough on the 20,000 bikes strewn around the city for use by anyone, anytime:

What has surprised everyone is vandalism: 16,000 bikes have been replaced because of damage or theft. Tires have been slashed, frames smashed, chains cut. And 8,000 bikes have been stolen.

Eleanor Beardsley of NPR chronicles her own experience with busted brakes on a Velib, and then offers a bit of conjecture about what could possibly be going on:

Parisians have many theories about the vandalism. Some say it's youths taking revenge on the bourgeois bohemian class that use the Velibs. Others chalk it up to the disagreeable character of Parisians.

After French police fished the 100th bike out of the Seine and remained on the lookout for 8,000 more, or perhaps when the shop clocked that 15,999th repair, you'd think someone would have taken a second whip out a French-English dictionary and work up a rough translation of the phrase "tragedy of the commons."