|Owner||Mairie de Paris (municipality)|
|Transit type||Bicycle sharing system|
|Number of stations||1,225|
|Daily ridership||85,811 (2011 average)|
|Number of vehicles||18,000|
Vélib’ is a large-scale public bicycle sharing system in Paris, France. Launched on 15 July 2007, the system has expanded to encompass around 18,000 bicycles and 1,200 bicycle stations, located across Paris and in some surrounding municipalities, with an estimated ridership of 100,000 people per day in average.
Since December 2011, Vélib’ has been complemented by Autolib', an electric car sharing scheme operating on similar principles. Vélib’ is operated as a concession by the French advertising corporation JCDecaux. As of 2013[update], Vélib' is the world's third-largest bikesharing program, after the 90,000-bicycle system in Wuhan, China, and the 61,000-bicycle system in Hangzhou, China.
The initiative was proposed by Paris mayor and French Socialist Party member Bertrand Delanoë. The system was launched on July 15, 2007, following Lyon's Vélo'v success and the pioneering 1974 scheme in La Rochelle. 7,000 bicycles were initially introduced to the city, distributed among 750 automated rental stations, with fifteen or more bicycle parking slots each. The following year, the initiative was enlarged to some 16,000 bicycles and 1,200 rental stations, with roughly one station every 300 metres (980 ft) throughout the city centre, making Vélib the second most extensive system of its kind in the world, surpassed only by the Hangzhou Public Bicycle program in China.
Each Vélib’ station is equipped with an automatic rental terminal and has stands for dozens of bicycles. Maps showing the locations of the city's Vélib stations are available at all kiosks.
The grey bicycles were produced in Hungary by the French bicycle company Mercier and are repaired by JCDecaux. The price per bicycle has been variously stated as US$500, $1,300 (if provided by JCDecaux), €300, $3,460, or $3,500 apiece. They are three-speed bicycles, each weighing approximately 22.5 kilograms (50 pounds). Vélib bikes are equipped with always-on LED lighting powered by a fronthub dynamo, a locking system and a front bicycle basket.
If a user arrives with a rented bicycle at a station without open spots, the terminal grants another fifteen minutes of free rental time. The rental terminals also display information about neighbouring Vélib’ stations, including location, number of available bicycles and open stands. A fleet of 23 bicycle-transporting vehicles are used 24/7 to redistribute bicycles between empty and full stations.
In order to use the system, users need to take out a subscription, which allows the subscriber an unlimited number of rentals. Subscriptions can be purchased at €1.70 per day, €8/week, €29/year (Vélib' Classique), or €39/year (Vélib' Passion). With a subscription, bike rental is free for the first half hour of every individual trip; an unlimited number of such free trips can be made per day. A trip that lasts longer than 30 minutes incurs a charge of €1 to €4 for each subsequent 30‑minute period. The increasing price scale is intended to keep the bikes in circulation. A Vélib' Passion subscription allows the user to have the first 45 minutes free on each trip, its price is reduced to €29 for users aged under 27, and to €19 for students receiving a scholarship.
Some stations located above an altitude of 60 metres are called V+. They give any user returning a bicycle from a non-V+ station 15 free minutes of rental: if the rental lasted more than 30 minutes, 15 minutes will be deducted to calculate the amount the user has to pay, meaning that, for example, a 45-minute trip to a V+ station is free. If the rental lasted 30 minutes or less, the 15 minutes are added to a bonus V+ account, and can be used for future rentals exceeding 30 minutes.
A credit card or debit card with PIN is required to sign up for the program and to rent the bikes. The credit/debit card will be charged €150 if a rented bike is not returned. The credit card is required to contain an EMV chip in order to get a subscription at a station; short-term subscription can also be purchased online. 1‑day and 1‑week subscribers are given a subscription number to be used for future rentals during their subscription period, while 1‑year subscribers are sent an RFID card. All types of sign-up can also be attached to a Navigo pass instead. The RFID card and Navigo pass allow direct use of the card readers at Vélib stations.
|time||30 min||1 h||1 h 30||2 h||5 h||10 h||20 h|
The system is financed by the JCDecaux advertising corporation, in return for the city of Paris signing over the income from a substantial portion of on‑street advertising hoardings. JCDecaux won the contract over a rival bid from Clear Channel.
JCDecaux paid the scheme's start-up costs, totalling about $140 million, and employs around 285 people full-time to operate the system and repair the bikes on a ten-year contract. The city receives all revenue from the programme, as well as a fee of about $4.3 million a year. In return, JCDecaux receives exclusive control over 1,628 city-owned billboards; the city receives about half of that advertising space at no charge for public-interest advertising (slightly different numbers were reported in July 2008). This model was first used in France in 1998 by Adshel (now part of Clear Channel) in Rennes.
Due to an unexpectedly high rate of vandalism compared to the Lyon bicycle hire system, the Paris City Council has agreed to pay replacement costs of $500 per vandalised bicycle, leading to expected costs of up to 2 million euro per year.
Theft and vandalism
At least 3,000 bicycles were stolen in the first year of operation, a number far greater than had been initially anticipated. As of August 2009, of 20,600 bikes introduced into service, about 16,000—some 80% of the total—have been replaced due to vandalism or theft; of the latter, fully 8,000 were stolen. Stolen Vélib bicycles have turned up in the Seine River, in shipping containers destined for North Africa, and in cities as far away as Brașov and Bucharest, Romania. On the streets of Paris, it is commonplace to see Vélib bicycles in their docking stations with flat tires, broken pedals, or other damages, though this can be as much the result of intensive use as of vandalism.
JCDecaux officials have admitted that they underestimated the degree of potential losses from vandalism and theft, a factor which did not significantly affect earlier JCDecaux-administered bike sharing programs in France, such as Vélo'v in Lyon. In Paris, repair efforts are currently running at some 1,500 Vélib bicycles per day, focusing mainly on tire re-inflation, and despite recently introduced security measures, losses from theft continue. Plans to complete a profitability analysis have been postponed until new procedures have been introduced to contain losses, and the program's critics have used the Vélib program as a prime example of the economic principle of the tragedy of the commons.
At least one sociologist has interpreted the unexpected vandalism rate as a symptom of revolt against French society by the suburban and urban poor, especially immigrant youth gangs resentful of what they perceive as privileged bo‑bos or "bourgeois-bohemians", the trendy French urban middle class that constitute the principal users of the Vélib system. In an ominous allusion to historical Parisian revolutionary history, some Vélib bicycles have been found vandalised and hanging from lampposts.
One issue that has arisen is how to safeguard riders from hiring a returned Vélib cycle that was damaged by a prior user or is in need of immediate maintenance. To indicate when there is a problem with the bike, it has become common for returning users to rotate the seat through 180 degrees so that it is pointing backwards. While this practice assists staff in determining which bikes require immediate attention, it depends for its success on substantial voluntary compliance from users.
Timing differences of up to 30 minutes exist between clocks of different rental stations due to poor synchronisation, and may give rise to overbilling or underbilling. The mayor of Paris has given assurances that overcharges will be reimbursed. Rental stations use the Microsoft Windows operating system and have been known to crash, giving the infamous blue screen of death.
There are frequent disparities between the availability of rental bicycles and the number of rental slots. Each rental station indicates the number of bicycles available at the nearest stations.
Demand can be high during the working week and during transport strikes. Although rental bicycles are not dedicated, it has been known for people to chain a bicycle to its station so that it will remain available to them for a subsequent trip. Vélib' has declared this to be uncivic behaviour, and Vélib' employees are authorised to cut the locks in these cases.
Stations at greater elevations generally experience greater demand. In addition, there is a net inflow of bicycles from the outskirts to the city centre earlier in the day, and a net flow outwards in the evening. Thus, depending on the time of day, Vélib needs to manage the demand at its outermost and centremost stations. Consequently, bicycles may be completely unavailable in some locations, whilst parking problems exist for others.
Vélib' is faced with logistical issues, and is constantly having to relocate bicycles during the course of the day. There are proposals to make adjustments to the system's pricing mechanism. The "bonus V’+" bonus system was put in place on 14 June 2008 in an effort to adjust the demand level. Fifteen minutes of free cycling time is credited to users who rent bicycles from stations without the logo (mostly situated at the edge of the city and more than 60 m above sea level) and drop bicycles off at stations where the logo is displayed.
Due to continuing high demand, the Vélib' scheme was extended to neighbouring councils (up to 1.5 km from Paris' boundaries) in 2008. 4,000 bicycles have since been distributed to 29 towns on the edges of Paris.
In late 2012 a Vélib' bicycle was moved to Lyon and parked among the Velo'v bicycles, Lyon equivalent of the Vélib'. Initially intended by a small studio as a way to gain celebrity it resulted in the studio being fined 175 euros.
- "Vélib' - carte de stations" (in French). Vélib'. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
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- Steven Erlanger (July 13, 2008). "A New Fashion Catches On in Paris: Cheap Bicycle Rentals". The New York Times.
- Some extended stations are counted twice in the official figures of 1,450 stations, statistics have never shown 20,600 bikes
- Paris will radeln, Sueddeutsche Zeitung , 3 April 2007. (German)
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- The Vélib’s nontraditional frame without a horizontal top tube means that the frame must be built very heavily to compensate against fatigue failure, resulting in a substantial increase in bike weight.
- Office du Tourisme de Paris. ParisInfo.com. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
- Rental Bikes In Paris Prove Popular With Vandals by Eleanor Beardsley. Morning Edition, 3 Aug 2009.
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- Erlanger, Steven and De La Baume, Maïa, French Ideal of Bicycle-Sharing Meets Reality, The New York Times, 30 October 2009: Hanging the bicycle from the lampost is a thinly veiled allusion to the violent 18th-century practice of à la lanterne!, where rioting Parisian mobs hung their bourgeois and aristocratic enemies from city lamposts.
- Reminder on this practice by an administrator on the Vélib' blog.
- "Synchronisation horaire des stations" (in French). 13 septembre 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2008.
- "Vélib’ : premier bilan" (in French). 29 July 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2008.
- "Écran bleu". Retrieved 2 August 2008.
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- Agnès Poirier (2007-08-02). "Vive la velorution". The Guardian (London).
- Steven Erlanger (2008-07-13). "A New Fashion Catches On in Paris: Cheap Bicycle Rentals". The New York Times.