Parisians Love their Velib
We've read about the bicycles around Paris that you can pick up, ride and drop off elsewhere, and now we have seen them. And we are here to report that the concept works and the Parisians are using it like crazy. Called Vélib', you register to get a "credit" card with a pin number which you load up with money. The pin number is punched into the kiosks located at the bike stand and then you are free to ride away. Literally--the first half hour is free, then it's is one euro per half hour. This encourages quick rides from point to point. On the kiosk is a map showing where the neighbouring stands are located.
Since it is Paris, absolutely no one wore a helmet--they just aren't chic. But the mix of young and old using the bikes was a pleasure to see. Since it is Paris, there are wide boulevards which leave lots of room for joint bike and taxi lanes, making riding feel safer and easier. But the growth in bicycles means that the taxi lanes are now being taken over by bicycles which could become a problem.
We saw bike stands dotted everywhere around the centre of town. During the weekdays the stands were half full of bikes, waiting to be taken. But in the evening they were empty: obviously everyone is using them to hit the cafés and do errands after work. On the weekend there were no bikes to be found. Those in the more distant areas disappear quickly and there is often a wait for them to be returned. Electric trucks go around redistributing the bicycles in the morning.