Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vélib' City-wide Bicycle Rental

UPDATE: In the first two years of operation, about 8,000 bicycles were stolen. Beginning in January, 2012, a similar system, called Autolib', will use 3,000 all-electric automobiles, complete with charging stations located throughout the city of Paris.
On July 15, 2007, the city of Paris launched its new Vélib’ program — which stands for Vélo (Bike) and Liberté (freedom) — a self-service bike transit system offering the ability for anyone, Parisians and tourists alike, to pick up and drop off one of 20,600 bicycles distributed among 1,451 locations throughout the city. There is one rental station approximately every 900 feet. Bicycles rented at one location may be returned to any location within the system.
Each bicycle features a wire shopping basket mounted in front of the handlebars, and the rear tire is covered by a wide fender, so that parcels, briefcases, etc., may be attached using bungee cords.
This program (guaranteed by its sponsors to operate for at least 10 years) is part of the efforts by the mayor of Paris to decrease automobile traffic in the city by an aggressive percentage. In order to assure that the bicycles are not stolen, a 150€ hold is placed against the user’s credit card balance at the time of rental. There is an automated rental machine at each rental location.
The first 30 minutes is always free, and modest charges apply for time used after that (for example, a 55-minute trip is 1€; a 90-minute trip is 3€. Research has shown that converting short trips from cars to bicycles will yield the most favorable results for traffic-clogged Paris.
A one-day card sells for 1€; a weekly card for 5€; an annual card is 29€. If each use is 30 minutes or less, no other charges are incurred.
The rub? American credit cards don’t work in the rental machines. They require a credit card with an embedded chip for extra security, a feature of all European issued credit cards. Maybe soon.

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