Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The French Rediscover the Bicycle

I believe it was the French who discovered the original bicycle, and now it's back--and I'm not talking about the Tour de France. I'm talking about Velib.

Almost as if to reprimand myself for joking about the French free market system, I ran into this video (in French) about how the Parisiens are now turning to the bicycle as a means of transport.

Velib's new bike system
[Thanks to Soriano at Le Figaro for the photo.]

This is an exceptionally good idea with a twist, as this article confirms, citing the 1.5 million rentals in one month. The unusual thing about Velib's bike rental system is that it allows you to take a ride one way, and leave your "vehicle" at your destination. And there are 750 stations all around the Parisian capital. That number is soon to be doubled. It works on a variable fee system just like the public transport.

Oh, there are the usual sticks-in-the-mud, e.g. the taxi drivers who don't appreciate the bikers' driving techniques (or perhaps the suspicion that the system crimps on their customer base), or the bus drivers who don't get no respect for their impressive size, or your run-of-the-mill sticklers who don't appreciate a biker on the sidewalk or the crosswalk or even someone pushing his bike the wrong way on a one-way street.

Otherwise, this seems an excellent enterprise, one that we should copy in all of our larger metropolises.

I wonder how long the French government will let this continue, given that it impinges on their own revenue and they're already pretty deeply in the red.

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