So far. I forgot to point this out a couple of weeks ago. There was a nice story in the Guardian giving a one month update on the progress of the Velib program in Paris. Recall I blogged about its launch here, and expressed hope that the expectations that it would not work were wrong (I’m such an optimist). Well, the news is that it is working! The whole article (by Angelique Chrisafis) is here. A quote:
Day and night, tourists, commuters and returning party animals cruise by on the chic new machines. People have joyfully discovered the cheap new way of exercising en route to work or getting home drunk after the metro closes, hence a rush of hires after 1am. There’s a glut of bikes deposited at stands at the bottom of hills and none left at the top, as people freewheel down from the heights of Belleville and Montmartre.
(Now I’m in the mood to get out the wonderful movie “Les Triplettes Des Belleville” (or “Belleville Rendezvous” or “The Triplets of Belleville”) for an enjoyable evening.) Further:
The Green party has congratulated Parisians for leaping on a scheme that shows that protecting the environment “is not a punishment, but a delight”.
But for all the hype, has VÃ©lib’ actually stopped people using their cars? Anecdotally, most people using the bikes are coming off public transport, seeking an alternative to bus, metro and expensive Paris taxis at night. At rail stations, so great is the rush for suburban commuters to jump on bikes rather than cram into Metro carriages that some have tried to lock up bikes on stands at night to secure them for the morning. But the increase in people cycling does seem to be boosting bike awareness and challenging the car mentality. Paris, with its wide streets, is already a better city for cyclists than London. And no, you don’t wear shorts, helmet or pollution mask; most people prefer a suit or high heels. Blase cyclists can be seen negotiating the high-speed free-for-all that is the Place de la Concorde while puffing a cigarette and calling a friend.
There’s much more in the article (including reports of some more alarming aspects of the scheme’s success, like the increased violations of traffic rules and so forth), but on balance I’m very pleased. It’s also great to hear that only 100 bikes have been stolen – theft was one of factors expected to be a major contributor to the failure of the scheme.
It’s only been a month, so I should not break open the champagne yet, but….
Also good to hear is the news that London is looking at it! Good Ol’ Ken (the Mayor) has been reported (story by Hugh Muir, also in the Guardian) as confirming that he wants to try such a scheme. So, I ask again (as I did in the previous post)… anyone want to have a go at trying to get Major Antonio Villaraigosa to lead the way here in the USA by starting with Los Angeles?
Some Related Asymptotia Posts (not exhaustive):