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Sunday, 20 April 2008
Let them ride bikes!


I have been watching these bicycle racks just off Place de l’Étoile since the beginning of the year and they have been always empty. On 8 April I spotted two bicycles.  It’s quite exciting to now see so many (photo above) and wonder if there are just more at this particular spot during the day than after hours.  If you haven’t been following the story, these bicycles are part of the Vélib scheme (“freedom bikes”). Bicycles are available for a cheap fee from any of their sites around the city and can be returned to any Vélolib site. You need to swipe a credit card to access a bicycle, but they are free for the first 30 minutes and cheap thereafter.

But for all the hype, has Vélib’ actually stopped people using their cars?” (asked The Guardian in August last year (probably prematurely since the scheme was only one month old at the time!):

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.

“If a critical mass of people get on these bikes, it will change the way drivers react to cyclists - it will force the city to put in more cycle lanes,” says Alexandre, an IT technician who has cycled to the Champs-Elysées for lunch with a colleague who hasn’t ridden a bike since he was 12. Wisely, they have taken the pedestrian underpass rather than negotiate the Étoile roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe.

Posted by bigblue on 20/04/2008 at 07:27 AM
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