Paris’ self-service VÉLIB’ bikes, introduced in 2007, is recognised as the largest city bike scheme worldwide at present (20,000+ bikes). Owing to its scale but also its custom-made bikes and street furniture, maintenance plan and promotional outputs, it is almost certainly the most expensive ‘public bike’ installation to date and has probably received more column inches from press attention than any other scheme, thanks to the high profile of the city it resides in. However, beyond all the hype and dazzle attributed to this city’s latest eco-urban-mobility fashion accessory, many Parisians are in fact very happy with the service, especially those managing to find bikes at the top of the hills rather than the bottom.What is a little less promoted is this is not strictly Paris’s own invention – the secret of Vélib’s popularity is in large part thanks to installation and gradual design development and testing of the system in other cities, to provide an effective service. Behind the grey metallic skins and revised forms of the Paris bikes is the JC Decaux ‘Cyclocity’ system, iterations of which was introduced in Vienna and Lyon around 2002 and consecutively about in ten other European towns before Paris. JC Decaux’s main competitor, Clearchannel, have also introduced their ‘Smartbike’ system with great overall success in a similar number of cities internationally, one of the most recent of which is Washinton DC.
Additionally, the Paris scheme is cited to have experienced a disproportionate share of problems linked to theft, breakage and damage of the cycles, when compared with similar schemes in other cities. Reports for its first year indicate that up to 6,000 Vélib’ bikes were either stolen or irreparably damaged, which equates to nearly 30% of all the bikes out of action. This compares to an average of around 10-15% first year theft/ damage/breakage reported from other cities. The Barcelona Bicing programme, which is based on the Clearchannel system, experienced less than 200 thefts in the first year, which, out of its 6,000 bikes implies little more than 3% loss. Although figures may be reported differently, the discrepency seems large and it is not entirely clear why Paris has suffered so much in this respect. Ironically, the Vélib’ bike seen in the photos was recently spotted by Bikeoff in Barcelona, locked with two consumer bike locks to a typical U-stand. Perhaps it felt safer there!
TdF rolls into town this weekend, all those lovely bikes! But for those of us not fortunate enough (or fast enough?) to have several bikes and a backup team to keep us on the road Bikeoff reminds you that if you love your bike then lock it up right – both wheels and the frame to an immovable object!
On the subject of loving your bike – this Sunday you can go down to the Design Museum on London’s South Bank and publicly declare your love for your ride. Cyclists will be filmed saying why they love their bikes. Design Museum, London, Sunday 8th July, 2007 http://www.designmuseum.org/talks.
Bikeoff did something similar on Valentines day earlier this year – see some of the results of ‘I love my bike because…’here.