Streetsblogger Goes to Paris, Rides Velib

9_30_08_velib.jpg
For More Pictures of Biking and Bike Sharing in Paris, Visit Anna’s Kodak Gallery

Streetsblog contributor Anna Chow recently visited Paris and rented
some bicycles from Velib.  Given the discussion on bike-sharing here in
Los Angeles it seemed a more than an appropriate time to share her
experience with those of us that haven’t been to Paris since July of
2007.

For those of you not following the bike share trend that is spreading worldwide, NYC Streetsblog has written about Velib several times.  At Velib’s 1st birthday, they described it as:

On July 15, 2007 Paris debuted the world’s largest self-service "bicycle transit system" called Vélib outdoing previously designed bike share programs.
Vélib is a balance of scale and functionality, clocking in with more
than 20,000 bikes, and 1,451 docking stations, which are never more
than 1,000 feet apart. As a result, Vélib is effectively a new form of
public transportation that has generated more than 25 million new
bicycle trips in its first year, 10% of which substitute former car
trips.

Anna and her traveling companion took their Velib bicycles to a farmer’s market and on a trip around The Seine.  Just as Councilman LaBonge noticed in Berlin and Bordeaux,
Anna found a lot more people commuting by bicyle than in Los Angeles. 
And of course, Europeans have no problem commuting in suits and other
work clothes.

As for Velib itself, the bikes have large enough baskets in the
front to put groceries, extra clothing and other smaller items.  The
bikes themselves slide easily into and out of the locking mechanisms,
although some of them had flat tires or poorly working breaks.  If you
plan to use Velib, check your bike before renting it.  There were no
problems with the bikes they rented and they rode them for for several miles around town.

As for the big question, having experienced bike sharing in France,
does Anna think it could work here?  She writes, "Not sure if it would
work as well here, perhaps not for the entire city, but certain parts
of the city…."

  • My wife and I were in Paris in 2007 and I was bummed to have Velib’s debut by a few weeks.

  • I believe that bike sharing can indeed work in LA but as Anna said, it would need to start in smaller areas in the city. Westwood would be a great place to start, as they already have ride sharing and zipcars there. Then the program can be expanded to downtown, west LA, Marina del Rey, Venice, etc. I think this would be a successful program here with enough buy-in from the city and enough funding. More bike lanes and sharrows wouldn’t hurt either to create a more bike-friendly atmosphere in LA.

  • Marcotico

    There is a great google maps application called Mapfrappe.com . It allows you to trace an outline in one google maps window, and see the shape in a separate window. I find it especially useful for transportation solutions.

    If you got to the Paris Velibe site, and search for a bike station, the map shows that almost all of the stations are located inside the Boulevard Peripherique (Peripheral Blvd – what a great name!)

    If you go to Mapfrappe.com and trace the outline of the velib zone in one window and transpose that shape onto LA, you will be pleasantly surprised. On the one hand it is an impressively large area, however on the other hand it is certainly not large in consideration of the entire Metro service area. For example, if you line the northern edge up with West Hollywood and Hollywood the eastern end of the boundary is Vermont Ave, the western end is roughly Beverly Glen, and the southern end is roughly Rodeo Rd south of I-10.

    As grand as that sounds remember that Paris backs up that service area with considerable resources. Including trucking bikes around so that your local station is always decently stocked but not overcrowded.

  • Marcotico

    Neat Mapfrappe is even cooler than I thought. It allowed me to save the outline of the Paris Velibe service area. Here you go:

    http://mapfrappe.com/?show=324

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