Pedal Power Comes to Paris
Wednesday 15 August 2007
The City Council in Paris have launched a city bike scheme, set to be one of the largest of its type in Europe.
Initially, around 10,000 bikes have been deposited around Paris at 750 cycle stations, which is to be increased to 20,000 bikes and 1500 stations by the end of the year.
Within a couple of weeks of the launch of the Velib service the city council had already signed up around 12,000 users and recorded over 150,000 uses. The number of uses is now reportedly over 1 million, equivalent to a bike being used around 7 times per day, with nearly 50,000 registered users.
In a city in which there are 370 kilometres of cycle routes, with more planned, the council hopes for 200,000 registered users within 12 twelve months. In 2005 the city of Lyon introduced a similar system and has around 60,000 registered users.
There is an annual charge of €29 to use the service, but it is also possible to take out a bike for €1 a day, or €5 a week. Indeed, there is no charge if you only need the bike for less than half an hour, although all users need to register and pay a guarantee deposit of €150.
One of the particularly innovative aspects of the system is that the user card can double up for use on the public transport system, allowing users to switch between cycle power and the metro or a bus.
The scheme has not been without its teething problems, with reports of a shortage of bikes at some stations, a large surplus at others, and problems with the operation of the racking systems, some of which fail to release a bike or register its return. As a result, the city council has been forced to suspend penalties for the late return of a bike.
Thefts of the bikes have been relatively modest at around 100, although there are up to 150 in the workshop each day in need of repairs and maintenance.
As the bikes can be picked up and left at any station, canny users and tourists have already cottoned on to the half-hour free use period, by switching bikes every half-hour at different stations as they traverse the city!
The bikes are sturdy machines with a distinctive colour and style, and front and rear lights that are permanently lit. Some consider they are a little unwieldy to use, but perhaps their greatest weakness is that, in a city in which around 500 cyclists each year are involved in accidents, the bikes are not supplied with a helmet!