Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Comparative Local Government Law in Motion: How Different Local Government Law Regimes Affect Global Cities' Bike Share Plans

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

Comparative Local Government Law in Motion: How Different Local Government Law Regimes Affect Global Cities' Bike Share Plans

Article excerpt

Introduction   I. Background: The Theory of the Global City and the Policy of      Bike Sharing        A. The Global City and Comparative Local Government           Law        B. Bike Share Plans  II. A Typology of Different Local Government Law Systems        A. The Local Government's Relationship with the State        B. The Local Government's Relationship with Other           Local Governments        C. The Local Government's Relationship with Entities           Located Below It        D. Relationships Within the Local Government        E. Summary III. Bike Share Plans Implemented by Diverse Local      Government Law Systems        A. Adoption of the Bike Share Plan        B. Funding of the Bike Share Plan        C. Placement of the Bike Share's Docking Stations  IV. Ramifications and Limitations Conclusion 


At the heart of the contemporary study of comparative local government law lies a paradox. On the one hand, the discipline relies on an assumption that there is a great deal of similarity between different cities across the world--an assumption evinced by adjectives such as "global," "international," or "world" that scholars routinely affix to the cities they compare. (1) If no minimal baseline of commonality is assumed, the whole exercise becomes futile. What is the point of comparing things that have nothing in common? On the other hand, what can be more local--as opposed to "global" or "international"--than local government law? The local is in the name, and for good reason. Local government law structures the smallest-scale political institutions, those that are the closest to the specific community. Thus inevitably this body of law reflects the community's particular culture and politics. Much of local government law is dedicated to the regulation of space: local government law's scope of interest, indeed its job, is parochial by definition.

This Article suggests and pursues one method for tackling this paradox presented by a field of law dedicated to the global attributes of the local (or the local attributes of the global). (2) The Article explores one common, "global," policy adopted by many cities despite the particular, parochial nature of their local government law regimes. The Article seeks to figure out how the particularities of the local government legal system affect--or do not affect--a policy the city imports from elsewhere.

The policy picked here for this exercise--bike share plans--is in many ways highly reflective of our times. In the age of the global city, bike share plans have become irresistible to cities throughout the globe. (3) A local bike share scheme involves placing bikes in stations spread throughout a city and inviting individuals to rent a bike at any station and return it to another in exchange for a payment set in accordance with the length of time during which the bike was used. (4) These bike-share plans have grown extremely popular in a very short span of time. Today Chicago's and London's streets are dotted with the blue bikes forming part of Divvy and Barclays Cycle Hire, respectively; Hangzhou's and Mexico City's with the red of Hangzhou Public Bicycle and EcoBici; Buenos Aires's and Taipei's with the yellow of Ecobici (5) and UBike; Toronto's and Wroclaw's with the black of Bike Share Toronto and nextbike; Rio de Janeiro's and Milan's with the orange of Bike-Rio and BikeMi; Copenhagen and Changwon (South Korea) with the white of GoBike and Nubija. (6) These cities, along with more than seven hundred of their brethren worldwide, (7) are all closely, and rapidly, following in the footsteps of Paris's original silver Velib' bikes, launched less than a decade ago, in 2007.

The almost universal rush to adopt this one uniform policy presents itself as testament to the emergence of the global model of the modern city. Such a city is always concerned with the same array of problems: congestion, environmentalism, tourism, a professional upper-middle class, and a booming center. …

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