If you live in a large city, such as Sydney, New York, or Paris, odds are that you have faced the very serious problem of automotive congestion in the downtown areas. There are a few solutions that so far have been implemented to try and solve the problem, the most famous one is the one introduced in London, where one has to pay to bring in their vehicle to the downtown district. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried proposing a similar system for his city, only to find himself unable to bring it to fruition. Well, the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe , has decided that another way to solve this problem is to provide to people access to cheap alternative, mass transportation, the Velib Bike System.

While Paris is not the only city that has implemented a system such as this, Stockholm, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona, and even Lyons have similar systems, this is believed to be the largest attempt at providing a low-cost biking sharing system provided by a government. The idea is simple, locate enough stations around the metro stations in the city, and you give commuters different options to travel to and from work, diminishing the need for the use of their automobiles. As of this moment the city has installed over 10,500 bicycles, and is expected to double that number by the end of the year. As you can imagine, these bikes were designed with heavy use in mind as each bike is expected to be used between 10 and 15 times per day by different passengers. They are meant to be tough, the components are hidden, and the materials chosen for the frame are heavier that the standard commercial bikes.

So, is biking to your job an option? Plenty of people seem to think so. Bike sharing services have been sprouting all around Europe. Furthermore, with the importance being placed on reducing traffic congestion, the idea of providing for biking services seems like an attractive proposition. Take for instance this editorial by David Haskell, which recently appeared in the New York Times. In it, he calls for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to emulate what’s happening in Paris and implement a similar plan for New York. Think about it, how many people really need their cars to move around Manhattan? This would be a proposition suitable to the city, and one which the Mayor’s office could implement very easily and cheaply. And the best place to start would be the new World Trade Centre development, or at least, that’s what the planners for the project seem to think, as they are proposing a bike sharing program to be installed in the complex.

+ Velib
+ The Path of Least Congestion @ NYT

+ Parisians say: Let them ride bikes @ The Star


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  2. PatiT February 26, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Alex & Leisa.. maybe the answer to the helmet issue would be to design a new, different type of helmet. One that is easier to transport in your bag or purse, (maybe foldable?) Something not as bulky as a traditional bike helmet but made of a material that is both lightweight and durable

  3. Jesse November 29, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I would love to start one of these bike share programs in another US city. If anyone has any more useful links or information for getting one started, that would be great if you could post it. Thanks!

  4. Alex November 23, 2007 at 7:51 pm


    That’s hilarious! I’ve just returned from a few months in France, and I’m doing a project for school on whether this system would work in Melbourne, too! But yeah, I still haven’t quite figured out the helmets thing…it was so easy in Paris not having to wear them, but dangerous, too! You know how helmets have those cushiony things on the inside? Maybe some sort of helmet without those, just made of plastic or metal or something, could that maybe be more hygenic, etc…? And the size thing…I really have no idea! It would definitely put a damper on the whole bike experience thing having to carry your own helmet around. Nobody would use it – it would defeat the whole purpose of the scheme. The whole thing is abput just being able to easily pick up a bike anywhere, anytime and be able to ride it anywhere you like. The helmet thing could definitely be an issue…

  5. marina October 9, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    in italy, a good experience is parma, but old towns are less challenging than manhattan. i saw also barcelons’s system and I’m working at an article that compares these systems. i’m in favour of helmets, particularly for children, so that would be a problem in a system like barcelona, because that one, as in paris, is meant to be considered “part” of the trnaspotation system. i have no idea in this respect ..

  6. leisa September 6, 2007 at 12:57 am

    I’m a town planning student researching the possibility of this bike sharing system working in Melbourne, Australia. I think it’s great but, unlike Europe, bike helmets here are required by law. To supply helmets would surely raise size and sanitary issues, would people really be willing to cart their own helmets around with them? Can anyone suggest an alternative or scenario regarding helmets?

  7. Make It Better » ... August 7, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    […] as a viable transit alternative, but the ones that do are starting to invest in those bikers. A wildly successful European model in Paris is making other cities start to catch on. The program eliminates the need for anyone to jump in a […]

  8. alexis August 3, 2007 at 11:30 am

    In Barcelona we have a similar bike sharing system


  9. Jean July 29, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    It’s a large succes in Paris. I’m an usual user of velib and it’s more fun to rise trough the capitale on a bike.
    We hope to obtain an extension to others suburban cities now.

  10. Pink Robe July 25, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    A free bike program was tried last year at the university in my city [Calgary], but people kept stealing the bikes [single speed with baskets]. I agree with some of the other posters that there needs to be appropriate [read: safe] ways for people to get around the city in the midst of all the traffic. Here, that means education for the drivers AND cyclists, bike lanes, and secure bike parking [for those that do own bikes]. A bike sharing program would be the icing on the cake, but the bikes would need to be multi-speed with low gear ratios for getting up the many hills surrounding the city center. Also, we get snow in the winter, and the roads do not get plowed effectively. This can make it very difficult to travel by bicycle, but it is doable [spiked tires and warm clothes help].

  11. royalestel July 25, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Also, for a couple years a bicycle was my primary transportation. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be in slushy streets of winter.

  12. royalestel July 25, 2007 at 8:24 am

    Quentin, considering your comments, I see how this could work in a congested city. Though most of the people I noticed traveling around Manhattan were hoofing it, and very few that were driving unless they were delivery trucks or taxis. I wonder if the bikes wouldn’t convert more walkers to riders instead of drivers to riders.

  13. Quentin July 24, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Hope you won’t mind my french accent or the grammatical faults, here I go :
    The Parisian Velib System works great, bikes aren’t stolen because when you want to use one You need to have a card that you buy every month, to buy this card you leave à deposit on your “carte orange” or “navigo card pass” the same card you use for public transportation in paris (buses, subway, trains, tramway and now velib).
    If you us a navigo card it’s free for the first 30 minutes and then you pay every hour unless you put it back on a velib parking system (there is a velib parking every 300m in paris and in almost every street.
    If your a tourist visiting Paris for a few days and you want to use the velib system that’s the same plan, you pay a deposit and it’s unlimited use for 5€ a day, at the end of your stay you give back the card and you’ll get the refund.
    It uses led lights at night and automatically re-load on a parking.
    Funny though it’s been running for one week now and at night you can see so many little white lights in Parisian streets you have to see how popular this things are.

  14. j July 24, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I recently saw similar operations in Berlin and Munich (as mentioned by megz, you can leave the bikes anywhere!) and another in Barcelona, but they need to be left at specific places.

    However, though this is a cool idea, its not suitable everywhere. Something like that just wouldn’t work in a city like Sydney. Sydney is very spread out, if I’m not mistaken it has one of (if not THE) lowest number of people per square kilometre for a large city. This means biking is tougher as distances are greater. However, Sydney also presents another challenge, its extremely hilly and all over the place. The roads are also not bike friendly at all, there is no room for them. I can see this working in Melbourne, which is slighty smaller, more flat and their roads have bikelanes already.

  15. rek July 24, 2007 at 1:45 am

    Toronto had Bike Share for years, but it was killed recently when the city withdrew funding.

  16. R. Kennedy July 23, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Great idea, and the spin off would be a better general health of the people riding the bikes, and for the people breathing less fumes. Hopefully this will catch on in more U.S. locations.

  17. biscuit July 23, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    It seems like the most important first step would be to have a comprehensive bike path/lane system in place in a city. Only once that is available will people get out of their cars to borrow bikes. Biking in traffic can be very intimidating, especially for someone who doesn’t ride regularily enough to own a bicycle!

  18. megz July 23, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Check out what the train company Deutsch Bahn has done in Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart – It’s called Call A Bike and you pay 8 cents per minute or 15 Euro max per day.

    The best thing is you can leave it anywhere you like. They are scattered all over the city.

    Info :

  19. Ruth July 23, 2007 at 7:01 am

    After much research and deliberation I decided=hoped it would be safe enough and bought a bike to travel to work and for pleasure riding. Biking to work in NYC is challenging at best and so far it hasn’t been possible to ride the bike trail around the island due to construction. Providing bikes is a terrific idea but will also require good bike lane planning and adequate funds.

  20. ole July 23, 2007 at 5:56 am

    We got it in Copenhagen for Years

  21. Sylvain July 23, 2007 at 3:55 am

    Before Paris, the same system was experimented in Lyon (France) for a few years now and it is a wide success! People even say that you can now feel the difference in the city traffic.
    In the city center, you can find bike stations every 300 meters and more station are being built every day.
    I myself use thoses “velo’v” at least once a day, when its not raining, on my way to the office (or back home).
    It is a great solution to automotive congestion as long as it goes with a well developped cycle lane network (because cycling among cars at rush hour can be a dangerous and unpleasant experience).

  22. tettinx July 23, 2007 at 2:51 am

    The system is installed in Brussels since quite some time now.
    It does not seem like a big hit.
    Apparently the bikes are pretty heavy and make cycling the hills in Brussels hard.

  23. Jakob July 22, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title poetry. Thanks for informative article

  24. Natx July 22, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Barcelona has “Bicing”. Is the same concept. It’s free (only a simbolical annuality) and it’s growing faster. Take a look

  25. Jennifer July 22, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    I hope they do this. I’ve been thinking of buying a bike, but other things always come up. How do they make sure the bikes aren’t stolen?

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