SUCCESS STORY: Paris launches cheap bike scheme

Posted: 20 July 2007

Paris has started a bike service that lets riders take cycles on short trips around the city at very low cost.

Velib Paris bike scheme
Velib Paris bike scheme
By the end of 2007, there were 1,450 stations and over 20,000 bikes in circulation. Photo © Vélib/Baheux/AP
Named Vélib', a mix of "vélo" and "liberté", the scheme has posted more than 10,600 bicycles at 750 special bike parks (called 'stations') in the city. There are at least 10 parks in the vicinity of every mainline railway station, so encouraging commuters to use the scheme.

But this is only the beginning: by September, there will be 1,000 stations open for over 14,000 bikes. And by the end of December, 1,451 stations will be open, with a total of 20,600 bikes. There will be on average a bike station every 300 metres, and more than 200,000 journeys per day are expected to be made by Vélib'.

Vélib' is the latest effort by the Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, to green Paris. He has already removed some traffic lanes, creating a total of 230 miles of bike paths, in an effort to encourage cyclists whose numbers here have risen by 50 per cent over the past 10 years.

Velib Paris bike park
Velib Paris bike park
Vélib bike park. Photo © Vélib
An annual pass for the pick-up and drop service costs €29 ($40) and a one-day pass is €1. The first half-hour of each journey is free; the users are then charged on a rising scale to encourage short bike usage. Accounts can be topped up by credit card at each bike station or on the website.

The bikes are specially designed to be easy to use and hard-wearing, as they are expected to be used between 10 and 15 times a day. The brakes and the gear change mechanism are situated in the wheel hub to prevent problems when changing gear. The components, and especially the frame, are protected. The bike weighs 22 kg, whereas commercial bikes weigh around 18 kg. The weight is connected with the choice of materials used, which have to be extremely hard-wearing.

A similar scheme was launched successfully in the French city of Lyon in May 2005 (See Rentabike moves up a gear from curiosity to runaway success). There are also smaller schemes in other European cities - Brussels, Aix-en-Provence, Mulhouse, Besançon, Marseilles and Seville.

Vélib website (in French)