Now Free Cars For Paris

First they had the Vélib' in Paris--the scheme where you can pick up a bike, ride it, and drop it off somewhere else. Now the Mayor is proposing the introduction of Voiturelib'--2,000 electric-powered vehicles that subscribers can drive off without booking at dozens of sites, 24 hours a day, and then leave anywhere in the city. There will be a minimal charge, depending on mileage, and the theory is that people can do their errands or make short visits, without the hassle of renting a car. Almost 45% of all Parisians own cars, but a surprising 95% of them remain parked at any time. The Cleanova (pictured), with its Renault Kangoo body, is being named as the potential car for this scheme. It is not the chic-est looking car on the block for fashion-conscious Parisians.

There are some doubts about the idea. Some fear that people will start to choose cars over bicycles and the usage of the free bicycles will decline, thus defeating the purpose of the whole experiment. Others are noting the comparative expense of running free cars versus bicycles. Apparently the Vélib' system has some kinks--many are out of service due to disrepair and vandalism. There are not enough in the morning for all of the commuters flowing into Paris, and there is a lack of parking spaces for them. The Mayor is against imposing a congestion charge. This will be an interesting idea to watch. :: Times

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