Paris Bike Sharing Faces Theft, Vandalism

February 17, 2009 07:30 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The bike-sharing program developed in Paris has faced serious challenges as thieves and vandals derail the system.

Parisian Problems Not Endemic to All Bike-Sharing Initiatives

The Paris bike-sharing program that inspired similar measures in the United States may be at a crossroads.

Vélib bikes—the name is a portmanteau for vélo (bicycle) and liberté (freedom)—have been badly abused by Parisian citizens, threatening to derail the program at certain locales, the BBC reports.

Since the launch of the program, the majority of the bikes have been replaced at a cost of €400 (about $550) apiece, after being stolen, vandalized and wrecked.

According to French publication Le Parisien, out of the total 20,000 bikes, 7,800 went missing while 11,600 have been vandalized.

Despite the difficulties in Paris, other cities that embraced the measure are not facing such problems: Lyon, which launched the initiative, seems to have had success, as has Washington, D.C., which introduced the program last April.

The American initiative was launched by Clear Channel Outdoor, which put about 120 bicycles on the streets of D.C. The bicycles were built to be sturdy, easily maneuverable and distinctive enough to discourage theft.

Washington bikers do not seem put off by the events in Paris. According to The Bike-Sharing Blog, which chronicles the initiative, “Even with these maintenance nightmares, the [Paris bike-sharing] system is expanding … With over 42 million uses and bikes traveling 10,000 km in a year, Vélib' is a marvel for everyone to watch and learn.”

Related Topic: Other cities’ bike dreams

Other major cities are also considering a similar program. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco was considering a contract proposal with Clear Channel in October 2007 that would finance the cost of a bike-sharing operation. The bikes, if used for mini-trips during lunch hours and for running quick errands, would “create a more sustainable transportation system,” the publication advocated.

Montreal also has bike-sharing dreams, according to the Montreal Gazette. The city hopes to create programs similar to those in French cities like Paris and Lyon, with “large-scale self-serve public bicycle rental” services in place by late 2009, said the article.

Even New York made strides towards the initiative when in conducted an experimental bike-sharing program for several days in mid-2007. “We are studying it with interest,” Molly Gordy, spokeswoman for the program told The New York Times. “The big questions for us are how to combat theft and vandalism, which are two problems prevalent in New York.”

Reference: Resources for bike fiends

A wealth of bike information can be found on the Transportation Alternatives Web site. The company is an advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit, offering cycling maps and bike law listings, among other resources for casual and dedicated riders alike. The organization also focuses on traffic-calming and car-free parks, and is working to transform New York into a bike-friendly place.

If you plan on biking in New York City specifically, The findingDulcinea New York City Survival Guide has a section on bike riding with maps, rules and safety, bike events and cycling clubs.

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