The bicycle diaries: Vélib’

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The bicycle diaries: Vélib’

(Image via Wikipedia)

Here’s a BBC radio documentary about Vélib’ (loosely velo + liberte = free bike?), a bike-share program in Paris. It costs nothing for up to half an hour, 1 euro per hour after that, and has 20,000 bicycles in operation! I like that you earn free credits if you leave bikes at the top of hills, as well as the guy talking about his friends falling off bikes after late nights out. I’d be interested to hear from a bike shop in Paris on whether they think this program increases or decreases bike-buying. Where’s the biggest program (if any) like this in the U.S.? Check out the official Vélib’ page for more.

20 thoughts on “The bicycle diaries: Vélib’

  1. Wally says:

    You need to pay a subscription to use a vélib’. It’s 1€ a day or 5€ a week or 29€ a year. After that, it’s free to take a bike if you keep it less than 30mn.

    Other cities in France have the same system. Paris wasn’t the first one.

  2. Gonzalo García says:

    Here in Zaragoza, Spain, they started a similar program last summer. (*)

    Regarding your question about bike sales, I’m inclined to think they’ve increased sales. At least from what I’ve seen on the street. A year ago you hardly ever saw any bicycles around, which indeed intrigued me as Zaragoza is quite a flat city, but right now there’s a noticeable amount of people on bikes and my own street has grown a nice population of bikes chained to lamp posts every night.

    So I have no hard data but my impression is that, yeah, it has helped increase sales.

    (*) There’s only about 1000 bikes, and subscriptions at this moment have a delay in being accepted. Prices are similar: Annual fee is 20€, first 30 min free, then 0.50€ per half hour. And there’s a limit of 2 hours.

  3. Jack of Most Trades. says:

    … It was a miserable failure.
    The few times I was even able to FIND a “Boiler Bike” in a bike rack, it had been totally trashed and was ready for the smelter. I found more bikes abandoned outside the Wally-World just off campus than I ever saw ON campus.
    The program was ended early within 30 days of launch.

    Americans have no respect for a bicycle. Perhaps this attitude will change when “The Precious Juice” gets back over $4 a gallon this summer again.

  4. Wally says:

    Vandalism is also a problem with Vélib’ in Paris… :-/

  5. vivi says:

    Free as in speech, not as in beer ;-)

    When the program was started in July 2007 there was a concern whether it would cause a huge surge of road accidents. Indeed during the first few months cars were careless and drove dangerously for bikes. However people started to gradually drive with more respect towards bikes, and in turn I think this gave more confidence and more people take their own bikes out. There are now much more bikes in Paris, including private bikes. There are also more accidents, but only because there are more bikes, the incidence has not increased.

    As for vandalism, I’m not sure it is the problem. The bikes are used up to 15 times a day, and thus “vandalized” bikes are merely broken due to heavy (and maybe careless) use.

  6. Ibid says:

    Washington DC has recently implemented a bike rental system. I’m not sure what they cost, but there are several racks all over the city.

  7. PortugueseGUy says:

    We have this in my home town: Aveiro in Portugal. Bicycles are spread around the city and anyone can use them for the day. There is no cost to use it. Before all you need to do was put in a coin and get it back when you were done. Now i think you need to get them in Dedicated Posts where you leave a personal document.

    Just look it up BUGA

  8. Mikkel Holm Olsen says:

    In Copenhagen, Denmark, a similar system called By-cykel (city-bike) has been in operation for years. You put in 20DKK (about 3€) to pick up the bike, but you get your mony back when you return the bike to one of the racks all over town. No fee for how long you ride the bike.

    The bikes are sponsored by commercials on them, although I have a feeling the town pays some amount of money to keep it operating.

    Only rule is that you cannot take the bike outside a certain area, and I think there is some tracking device embedded in the frame.

  9. Phil says:

    They should give cycling lessons as well, the amount of people on these in Paris who are just accidents waiting to happen is amazing!

    It seems they think they are on a moped, but don’t realise how vulnerable they are.

    Great idea though, would be great to see it in other european countries.

  10. xavier says:

    I do not have a driver licence (i’m 28) : never had the time or need to take it.
    I use public transportations a lot and i own several bikes. And still use velib’ once in a while :
    I’ve got a bike to go from home to the nearest underground station, a city proof bike that stays outside all year long and does not worth anything.
    I often use velib’ when i’m in the center of Paris and taking the underground or a bus is not worth it.
    And i have a serious bike when i want to go outside Paris on weekends : they’re are lot’s of woods and parks in the south west suburbs…

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Luke Iseman

Luke Iseman makes stuff, some of which works. He invites you to drive a bike for a living (, stop killing your garden (, and live in an off-grid shipping container (

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