Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Velib: The Story Continues (or at least it limps forward....)

This story at the French newspaper Liberation brings us up to date on the Velib, that ingenious idea of public transport that has taken hold of Paris, Lyon and other cities of France. Rumor has it that even Chicago is interested.

At first, everything was beautiful in the best of worlds. People lined up for subscriptions to this inexpensive and innovative way of getting around the city without having to find a parking space for a car and without polluting, except for one's own CO2.

See the story behind the Velib in chronological order, at:

- This post
- This post
- This post
- This post
- This post

Just last week, I heard about the first death, a woman who was clipped as she turned a corner and didn't survive the squeeze with a large truck.

Now, we get this Liberation story:

"Never content, those Parisians? Defective Velibs, overloaded parking stations, problems by the dozen... The grey bicycle is still popular, but the discordant notes are beginning to irritate. There's some serious grumping going on at the Velib parking stations.... This one looks full... but in fact, it's empty. Typical scenario, although subject to multiple variations: you take a bike from its stand and at the first push on the pedal you realize that the chain has been torn off. You wait a few moments for the system to recognize that you've replaced the bike in its stand, all the while massaging your tibia bruised by the brutal snapping back of the pedal. Next try, the first few yards all goes well, but on the first straightaway another failure, you discover that the wheel is bent. Or maybe it's the gear shift that is broken. Or the tire flat, the headlight busted, the brakes worn out... Discouraged, you push your bike back to the station, hook it back up, turn the saddle backwards to signal the problem according to the unwritten rule, and then, nonplused, you turn to your old standby, the subway...."

Velib casse
[Thanks to and DR for this photo.]

Now, only a few months after Velib's heralded debut, there are enough gripers to have their own website.

Paris's City Hall and Monsieur Decaux, the partners in this venture, have hired 200 technicians to repair all the little problems. In Lyon, 10% of the bikes are put out of service each year. In spite of this, there are 130,000 subscribers and 6.7 million users in Paris alone.

This story isn't over yet.

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Blogger Tony said...

I'm just wondering whether these problems will be easily solved or will continue to plague the 'new' system. For example, have any people frustratingly experienced a full station when returning a bike and even waiting 15 minutes does not free any racks? Then, they ride to the nearest Velib station to only find that there are no free racks here either. No wonder some bikes have mangled wheels!!!!!

5:20 PM  

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