Sunday, July 13, 2008

Liberté, Fraternité, Vélib-ité....

A happy Bastille Day to you. It only seems appropriate to highlight an article from the
New York Times about the surprising popularity of the rent a boat anchors in Paris. Ok, they may be as heavy as a boat anchor but really they are the Vélib or Liberty Velos. Reading the article what blew me away was how close the drop off and rental stations are, as little as 300 yards away! With over 1450 stations they are ubiquitous. Check out these stats:

In the first year, the city says, there have been 27.5 million trips in this city of roughly 2.1 million people, many of them for daily commutes. On average, there are 120,000 trips a day. And on July 27, at the conclusion here of the Tour de France, 365 lucky Vélib’ riders will be chosen to ride along for a while and cross the finish line.

While the service has had it's problems with theft, increasing congestion on streets, conflicts with traffic. It does demonstrate the feasibility of alternative transport, and this is in a city that supports alternative transportation. Paris is a great transit city with one of the top class rail and subway systems. I fondly remember asking "une carnet si vous plait" for the 10 pack of tickets for the subway. I wonder if they use le metro card now?

Another quote that struck me in the article was a technique to increase success were the following:

there were several keys to success: allowing subscriptions, so people get the sense that the bikes are free once they have paid their up-front fee; making sure the bike stations are ubiquitous and keeping the system “user-friendly.”

It reminds me of how popular the "Spare the Air" days are here in the Bay Area, when pollution counts are high mass transit goes free. Unfortunately the cost is prohibiting from continuing. Free transit systems like the various shuttle systems that exist downtowns like in Denver and Portland have proved successful for minimizing car congestion.

Could a bicycle program work here? One trend in addition to the increase in bicycle riding is the use of scooters, like the dot-com razors to move between mass transit stops. I much preferable alternative to the Segway or the floating chairs of "Wall-E" (A movie I saw this weekend I'll blog about later, it brings up a lot of themes I've been thinking about lately).

Celebrate! Have yourself some Pomme Frites and take a bike ride to exercise them off.


At 2:10 AM , Anonymous Montparnasse said...

Smartcards are pretty the norm, except for single rides for which you can still buy a "carnet"! And there's more for all Paris metro smartcard holders: Vélib subscriptions (daily, weekly or yearly) can be stored on it! No more need to check the automated kiosk for picking up a bike, just touch in the card reader to release a bike!


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