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Old 09-25-07, 08:30 PM   #1
mriley
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urban bikes in Paris

An interesting article in the Sept. 22 issue of the Economist about urban rantal bikes in Paris (and elsewhere). I have transcribed one paragraph here:
Velib' (for vélo, or bicycle, and liberté, or freedom) has since taken Paris by storm. More than 10,000 bikes have been installed at 750 docking stations, which is half of the scheme's eventual capacity, says Jean- Francois Decaux, the sone of the [company's founder]. The bicycles have been used by 4m people so far, who have clocked up 100,000 rides a day. Last week Jean-Francois was in Moscow for talks with the mayor, who is keen to introduce a similar scheme there. The mayor of Chicago also expressed interest in importing Velib' diring a recent visit to Paris. [end of excerpt]
The article goes on to say that a one-day pass costs 1 euro ($1.30), with weekly and monthly passes available. Rides must be short - you can't keep the bike. There is a 150 euro security deposit. Credit cards only.

Has anyone (a British reader presumeably) used one of these? What kind of bikes are they? Sounds like a great scheme for the city.

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Old 09-26-07, 09:31 AM   #2
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Has anyone (a British reader presumeably) used one of these? What kind of bikes are they? Sounds like a great scheme for the city.
I visited Paris for two weeks in August and these bikes were everywhere. I brought my own bike (to do Paris-Brest-Paris) and didn't use the bikes themselves, but they look like pretty well thought out urban bikes. Basically, they are hybrids with adjustable seatposts, but with limited adjustments for the handlebars, which is an odd design choice for one-size-fits-all cycling. All of the frames are step-through and lack a top tube. All of the bikes have a generator headlight with standlight and a front basket for holding groceries. They do not have a rear rack but they do have a massive fairing over the back wheel as well as a front fender; so you can ride them without worrying as much about getting your clothes dirty with road spray. Not the fastest bikes in the world (though one Veliber time-trialing against me on the Rue Rivoli would've argued otherwise), but they seem imminently practical.

In general, they seemed rather popular, being ridden by a mixture of tourists and everyday Parisians running errands. Nobody wore a helmet. In the times that I had ridden around Paris, I would say 75% of the bikes that I saw were Velibs. It looks like the program is off to a good start, and I wish them all the best of luck with it and hope that the meme spreads.

edit -- also for North American tourists visiting Paris, you need a smart chip enabled credit card to activate a Velib. Supposedly, they're working on some way where you can buy a temporary pass if you don't have a smart chip card, but this was not yet available when I was visiting.
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Old 09-26-07, 09:35 AM   #3
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Old 09-26-07, 10:22 AM   #4
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And the best part of this story?
Chicago's mayor Daley wants the same thing (if somewhat scaled down) in Chicago. I can't wait, for the simple reason that the more bicyclist car drivers will see, the more they will take their presence as a given and act accordingly (at least 99.9% will). That makes for a safer commute for me...
See editorial on story here:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/servic...,4455520.story

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Old 09-26-07, 01:00 PM   #5
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It is nice to see that progress can be made even if it takes time. My last visit to Paris was around 1989. Back then cycling in Paris was considered an act of insanity. The city was just starting to put bike lane markings on the road, but frequently they appeared to be nearly in the middle of the road and were laughed at my many as being useless and silly and would only get a cyclist killed. Fast forward nearly 2 decades and I have seen various articles showing that the new bike "sharing" program has been far MORE successfull that hoped. I look forward to a future visit to Paris with my wife and daugher, maybe we will be able to ride around on bikes we well. That would be nice.

If the French can make such dramatic improvement... maybe we can make progress here in the USA as well.

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Old 09-26-07, 01:08 PM   #6
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I think I saw exactly three guys biking in Paris in two weeks when I was there. Everyone else was using a smart car or a motorcycle.

Maybe I was there at the wrong time of year.
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Old 09-26-07, 01:27 PM   #7
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These bike rentals are not unique to Paris, I also know that Brussels has them.
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Old 09-26-07, 02:23 PM   #8
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I think I saw exactly three guys biking in Paris in two weeks when I was there. Everyone else was using a smart car or a motorcycle.

Maybe I was there at the wrong time of year.
Was there only 2 summers ago... Saw cyclists everywhere... Not a lot, but people on bikes none the less. The guy that impressed me however was the cyclist in the middle of the traffic circle (about 4 deep) near the Arc'd Triomphe at rush hour. Now that was uh, shall we say ballsy.
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Old 09-26-07, 02:45 PM   #9
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Was there only 2 summers ago... Saw cyclists everywhere... Not a lot, but people on bikes none the less. The guy that impressed me however was the cyclist in the middle of the traffic circle (about 4 deep) near the Arc'd Triomphe at rush hour. Now that was uh, shall we say ballsy.
drivers in Paris are a lot more conscious of cyclists than those in North America. I remember riding through the rotary at Place Nation and being somewhat dumbfounded when cars would actually slow down and give me right of way.

The thing that I hated most about Place Charles De Gaulle (the rotary with the Arc D'Triomphe) was that it was surfaced with cobblestones. Shoulder checking for cars on that was ... interesting. I also saw a 60 year old guy on a Velib unflappably negotiate that rotary as the very picture of French grace and elan.
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Old 09-26-07, 03:56 PM   #10
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I have seen a report that the crafty Parisians are renting the bikes to ride on the downhill leg of the journey and taking the metro uphill!

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Old 09-27-07, 08:52 AM   #11
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Hi!!
You can read some informations here :
http://www.en.velib.paris.fr/comment_ca_marche

Here you can see a phot of a "Velib" :
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...Velibvelo1.jpg

The bike have 3 speed (nexus), a hub-dynamo (front and rear lights), a front panner, mud guard...
They are made by "Lapierre"

The bikes ride very good but they are a little too heavy ->23 kg!! but in Paris there aren't a lot of hills so the weight is not a big problem.

Here you can see a little video of a free ride with a vélib!!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afE44cHNkEg
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Old 09-27-07, 11:10 AM   #12
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I've read the info and I'm intrigued: a collective bicycle transit scheme run like a business in competition with other modes of tranportation.

10,000 Velibs would be one bike for every 200+ Parisians. You gotta start somewhere.

What happens if you get bike-jacked or wreck your Velib?

How long can you keep one?

TCS

PS - Say, did anybody ride P-B-P on one this year?
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Old 09-27-07, 12:01 PM   #13
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What happens if you get bike-jacked or wreck your Velib?
my assumption is that you'll probably lose your deposit.

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How long can you keep one?
as long as you're willing to pay, I suppose. Or forever assuming you're willing to forfeit the 150 euro deposit; though the bikes seem to be made specifically to discourage tampering (ie. all of the cables are internally routed, rear brakes are covered by the fairing), so even if you absconded with one, maintenance would be difficult. But, the general structure, where 30 minute rides are free seems to encourage folks to just keep them in circulation. It's because of that behavior that I prefer to describe it as the "ZipBike" program, ala "ZipCar" and other car share efforts.

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PS - Say, did anybody ride P-B-P on one this year?
not that I saw (and I was kinda hoping to see one) but there were a few riders who finished on flat-bar hybrids that aren't far removed from Velibs, and a couple of them carried all of their supplies on these massive backpacks. Not the way I'd roll, but they finished just as well as the rest of us, so props to 'em.

Last edited by spokenword; 09-27-07 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 09-27-07, 01:24 PM   #14
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Hi!!


Here you can see a little video of a free ride with a vélib!!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afE44cHNkEg
i'd seen this before... i love it.
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Old 09-27-07, 03:40 PM   #15
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... 30 minute rides are free...
Yeah, I read something about riders taking long rides in a series of 25 minute segments, turning in their Velibs and checking out new ones.

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Old 09-27-07, 04:52 PM   #16
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I saw rental bikes like this all over when I was in Oslo (Norway, for the geographically challenged) last month. Interestingly, they had a larger rear wheel than the front. They looked a bit like a Terry mixed with a Stingray or something.
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Old 09-27-07, 05:52 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by mriley View Post
An interesting article in the Sept. 22 issue of the Economist about urban rantal bikes in Paris (and elsewhere). I have transcribed one paragraph here:
Velib' (for vélo, or bicycle, and liberté, or freedom) has since taken Paris by storm. More than 10,000 bikes have been installed at 750 docking stations, which is half of the scheme's eventual capacity, says Jean- Francois Decaux, the sone of the [company's founder]. The bicycles have been used by 4m people so far, who have clocked up 100,000 rides a day. Last week Jean-Francois was in Moscow for talks with the mayor, who is keen to introduce a similar scheme there. The mayor of Chicago also expressed interest in importing Velib' diring a recent visit to Paris. [end of excerpt]
The article goes on to say that a one-day pass costs 1 euro ($1.30), with weekly and monthly passes available. Rides must be short - you can't keep the bike. There is a 150 euro security deposit. Credit cards only.

Has anyone (a British reader presumeably) used one of these? What kind of bikes are they? Sounds like a great scheme for the city.

M Riley
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Over in the States, unless it has a motor, people don't know how to make it go...
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Old 09-27-07, 09:00 PM   #18
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But I'd rather own my own bike.
True, but if you found yourself in a pleasant city with no bike but time for a leisurely ride, you know you'd go for it...
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Old 09-27-07, 11:07 PM   #19
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edit -- also for North American tourists visiting Paris, you need a smart chip enabled credit card to activate a Velib. Supposedly, they're working on some way where you can buy a temporary pass if you don't have a smart chip card, but this was not yet available when I was visiting.
I can't believe that the hundreds of people I saw riding them, many tourists, all owned smart cards (Europe is amazing and awesome but these smart cards are SO irritating. Sure, the US's credit card addiction is shameful but having to basically use cash for nearly everything really, really sucks. End rant.)

Is there a site in English somewhere that clearly explains how a tourist can obtain a Velib? Can't seem to find one in the first few I checked.
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Old 09-28-07, 06:54 AM   #20
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Quote:
But I'd rather own my own bike.
True, but if you found yourself in a pleasant city with no bike but time for a leisurely ride, you know you'd go for it...
personally, I was looking at it as an easy way to ease people into the habit of riding a bike to get around. It's like owning a bike without the hassles of storage, security or maintenance, and if later on if you find that you're riding frequently enough, you might go ahead and get your own. Again, not unlike the car adoption patterns that ZipCar owners might have.

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I can't believe that the hundreds of people I saw riding them, many tourists, all owned smart cards
why not? many of the tourists that I met were not American, and the number of tourists that I saw on Velibs were far smaller than the number of tourists that I saw hoofing it around or travelling through the city on the Metro.

Quote:
Is there a site in English somewhere that clearly explains how a tourist can obtain a Velib? Can't seem to find one in the first few I checked.
we heard rumours amongst some of the American and Canadian PBP riders that there was an alternative method for tourists where you could buy a disposable smart card at an SNCF station, but didn't get a chance to follow up on this, and the SNCF's site doesn't have details on it last I checked.
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