Streetsblogger Goes to Paris, Rides Velib

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

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

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 . 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 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:


Happy Birthday, Vélib

Here’s another transportation policy success story from France. The Vélib bike-sharing system celebrates its one-year anniversary today. In April, Streetfilms’ Elizabeth Press was in Paris to learn more about it. Here is her video and report: On July 15, 2007 Paris debuted the world’s largest self-service "bicycle transit system" called Vélib outdoing previously designed bike […]

Reports of Vélib’s Demise Greatly Exaggerated

JCDecaux touted Vélib on the cover of its 2007 annual report [PDF]. If you’ve read this BBC story currently making the rounds, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Vélib, Paris’s wildly popular bike-share system, has suddenly been afflicted by an epidemic of theft and vandalism that threatens its very existence. Vélib bikes have been "torched," […]

Bike-Share: Not Just for French Commies

In Montreal, theft is "not a major problem" for the bike-share network. Photo: TreeHugger. The New York Times ran a piece on Vélib’s growing pains this weekend. The story is more thoroughly reported than the hatchet job we saw from the BBC back in February — no claims that bike-share in Paris will flame out […]

Is Los Angeles Ready for Bike Sharing?

A motion on today’s City Council Transportation Committee Agenda requires LADOT to examine whether or not the city should invest in a bike sharing program similar to those in Paris and Washington, D.C.  For those of you that don’t know, bike sharing is a program that provides short-term bike rentals in areas near transit hubs […]

How Happy Are Parisians With Vélib?

The latest figures from the Paris Vélib bike sharing program are in. User stats and survey results are posted on the official web site, but for those who don’t parlez Français, here’s a summary: Rides to date: 20 million Average trips/day: 70,000 Average trip time: 18 minutes 190,000 annual pass holders 42% of users are […]

The Transformative Potential of Bike Sharing

Can a bike-sharing program transform a city? To mark the second anniversary of the Vélib system in Paris, Streetsblog Network member World Streets has a post arguing that it can, if it’s done on a sufficient scale: One of the complaints currently being voiced in the UK press about the new public bike start-up in […]