Public bike share proposed in 1895

On a visit to Portland, Oregon in 1895, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) suggested the city should invest in a publicly owned bike share operation, which he envisions as a money making operation for the city.

Portland ought to lay itself out a little and macadamize all its streets just like this. Then it ought to own all the bicycles and rent ‘em out and so pay for the streets. Pretty good scheme, eh?

Then, like a Colorado politician might suspect, Twain confesses his inspiration comes from Europe and their socialist ways, and says we should encourage government control in American capitalistic endeavors!

I suppose people would complain about the monopoly, but then we have the monopolies always with us. In European cities, the government runs a whole lot of things, and, it strikes me, runs ‘em pretty well. Here folks seem to be alarmed about governmental monopolies. But I don’t see why. Here cities give away for nothing franchises for car lines, electric plants and things like that. Their generosity is often astounding. The American people take the yoke of private monopoly with philosophical indifference, and I don’t see why they should mind a little government monopoly.

Bike share is just the first step in government control over all aspects of our lives, people. And note he wants the government to confiscate our bikes! Beware!

Read Mark Twain’s interview on his Portland visit here. Via Bike Portland and Crosscut.

Gene Bisbee also provides some background on Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live.”