Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Story Behind The Velib - French Mass-Transit Bicycle

So here is the larger story.

This is only a semi-free-market enterprise story, given the two partners in this affair. On the one hand, you've got the Mayor of Paris, and on the other, you have the guy who owns the company that places most of those ads all over most of the airports, buses, subways, and cities of the world, Jean-Claude Decaux. (He also invented that ubiquitous street toilet you've begun to see around metropolises.)

sanitaire
[Thanks to jcdecaux.com for the image.]

Here I was, thinking that some little guy had come up with this brilliant idea of renting bikes for one-way trips, gathering up investors, finding commercial space, signing leases, when in reality it is a top down, politically correct, probably money losing venture by two billionaires (albeit one rich only by proxy through the taxpayers). Decaux provided the idea, and the Mayor of Paris provided the parking spaces for free.

There is some debate about what the deal is, i.e. who gets the subscription and rental money, who pays whom what. I will watch this monopoly to see if it works over the long haul. Why not, I suppose, when you've got your points of sale rent-free? (Or paid by the taxpayers, whichever way you prefer to see it.)

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