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Velo (bicycle) + Liberte (freedom) = Velib’, the public bicycle rental program which was inaugurated in Paris in 2007.

A similar program was launched in Lyon, France, two years before Velib’ hit the capital and its success has prompted the adoption of comparable systems throughout Europe.


While the inhabitants of large American cities such as Los Angeles, dig deeper into their pockets every year to fill up their fuel tanks, frustration with automobile dependency and the lack of sufficient public transportation increases. There are no easy solutions, but years go by without implementation of significant plans to improve movement throughout the metropolitan areas.

What has Paris done to try and alleviate somewhat, the intrinsic problems of getting from one place to another within city limits? Thanks to its Socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, it has implemented a service for renting and returning a bicycle at over 1400 self-service stations, an average of 300 yards apart, throughout the city.

To give you an idea of what this means, there are approximately 4 times as many bike rental stations as there are Metro stations.
Velib’ is subscription-based. A one-year subscription costs 29 euros and affords the rider as many rides as he or she wants per day, with a time limit of 30 minutes per ride. So if you rent a bike from one station and return it to another within the time limit, there is no charge and you can do that all day long. However, after 30 minutes, fees are incurred, which increase significantly, by the hour. For instance, one extra hour will then cost 1 euro, two hours, 7 euros, five hours, 31 euros, etc. Subscriptions can also be purchased for a single day, for 1 euro, or a week, for 5 euros . Most destinations within the city limits can be reached well within the thirty minute limit. The Velib’ pay stations are easy to use and require a credit card, which will be charged a security deposit to guarantee the bike’s return. Despite these measures, over 3,000 bicycles were stolen the first year.


JCDecaux, the advertising giant winning the 10-year contract to deliver the bicycle rental system to Paris, expects to break even after three years. Problems they are trying to work out include theft, keeping up with necessary repairs, and making sure that there are enough stations to ensure that during peak usage, bicycles are available at the chosen pick-up location and are easily returnable at the desired destination.

The numbers are encouraging. Its first year, Velib’ attracted over 198,000 yearly subscribers, over 270,000 weekly subscribers, and over 3.5 million one-day subscribers! In all, bikes were rented 26 million times. These figures pertain to a fleet of 16,000 bicycles in circulation, which number is increasing. Currently, more attention is being focused upon creating bike lanes, safety, and assuring that this system integrates itself into the fabric of daily life, and becomes a viable means of transportation, inexpensive, dependable and reliable.
Certainly the challenges of road-sharing among cars, buses, scooters and bicycles are prodigious. The good news is that the first step, diving headlong into this alternative method of non-polluting transport, has been accepted, embraced, and utilized by many. Working out the bugs might take a while, but city administrators all over the world, are paying close attention to the efficacy and simplicity of riding bicycles to work and play. They are sending representatives to study the pros, cons, pitfalls and successes of such ventures in Lyon, Paris, Barcelona, Seville, Rome, Berlin, just to name a few. One significant outcome of Velib’ in Paris, is that employers are beginning to provide reimbursement to employees for their annual subscriptions.

Go to www.velib.paris.fr for information, news and a useful blog covering topics ranging from the installation of new baskets, to women who ride in skirts.

The Velib’ Motto: La Ville Est Plus Belle A Velo (The city’s beauty is more appreciated by bike).
Twenty-six million rides in one year. Kudos, Paris!

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