On Saturday Gobee.bike pulled their dockless bicycle company out of France after a string of thefts and vandalism. The company claims over a 1000 bikes were stolen and 3600 vandalised. This seems to have been an ongoing struggle in France throughout the bicycle sharing system with the original large bike renting company Vélib‘ reporting similar problems.
In 2009 the sociologist Bruno Marzloff blamed the vandalism of the Vélibs on a socially divided Paris. Being associated with the trendy urban middle class, the bikes were often a target of resentful, poor and marginalized immigrant youth who feel excluded from the glamourous side of Paris.
If similar social circumstances are behind Gobee’s demise then social inequality is clearly a force capable of enormous structuring effects on cycling. Yet its part is often overlooked by city transport planners, policy-makers, and many researchers. In the struggle to reduce air pollution and carbon footprints is it time that this omission was rectified?