The public bicycle system in Paris, known as the Vélib, has become a model for other cities around the world that are looking to reduce traffic and carbon emissions and to take back their cities from automobiles (Montreal, Boston, New York, San Francisco have all considered adopting a similar program). Health problems relating to pollution as well as a lack of exercise and the realization that global warming may actually be a concern have helped to jump start the interest.
The Vélib offers over 10,000 bicycles to customers throughout
Some quick highlights:
- Riders don’t need to tune-up or store the bikes.
- More cyclists on the road make cycling safer for everyone.
- You can ride to your destination, return a bike there (no lock-up necessary), do your errands, and pick up another for the return trip!
- The bike culture is contagious, and the trend to less traffic and healthier citizens will continue.
The Vélib bicycles were sponsored by an advertising agency, JCDecaux. In exchange for purchasing and maintaining the bicycles for 10 years, the agency gets advertising space throughout the city.
When the Parisian mayor initially proposed the Vélib, and announced that car lanes would be replaced with bike lanes, he met with significant resistance from the car-centric. Those voices have largely died down in the few months since the program’s July launch. Traffic, noise, and pollution have all decreased in the city. Even average commute time has been reduced (for the cyclists as well as the car drivers). 16,500 more bicycles are scheduled to be added to the fleet by year’s end. A city-wide partial carectomy has met with huge success!