There is a valuable lesson in Jason Redmond's government project for everyone: Great ideas don't sustain themselves.
Back in 1999 when he was a senior at Soldotna High School, Redmond conceived and implemented a public bicycle system, patterned after ones in the Lower 48. Redmond put out 20 bikes, all painted yellow, in bike racks around Soldotna. It was a system based on trust. Anyone could ride the bikes for free, leaving them at a bike rack near their destination.
Unfortunately, people used and abused the free bikes, leaving them torn up in parks and back alleys, turning them into a community liability rather than the asset they were intended to be.
It's too bad that some people make the honor system unworkable. It's too bad that there will always be some people who take advantage of a free ride. It's too bad that some people mess up a really good deal for others.
It's just too bad.
The only way a community can counteract those "too bads" is by individuals getting involved. The honor system works better when individuals keep an eye out for the community's welfare. It's harder for one person to take advantage of a free ride when many more are concerned about the community as a whole. It's harder for a few to mess up a good deal when others are willing to take responsibility for a project's success.
Great communities don't just happen. They involve a commitment of time, energy and resources. They happen in small steps. They happen when people work together.
Student projects like Redmond's are designed to make a community a better place to live, but those projects need ongoing support -- not necessarily the financial kind -- to make a difference. In addition to the bike racks which remain from the project, the lasting legacy of Redmond's project may be showing us how even just a little community involvement can go a long way in making a great idea succeed.
The best idea in the world won't go far alone.
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