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Velib - Pushbikes for Paris



- the new short-term pushbike rental scheme was introduced in Paris yesterday. It's a pet project of the leftie/greenie Town Hall of Paris. A similar scheme was trialled in Lyon and other French cities and now they've introduced 10,000 of the bikes into the capital with another 10,000 due by the end of the year.

The idea is that you pay a Subscription - either Daily, Weekly or Yearly - ranging from 1 Euro daily to 5 Euros Weekly to 29 Euros Yearly. On top of that you pay a Security Deposit of €150. Then you put your credit card or your pass into the machine and take your bike. The first half hour is free, then it starts to cost - €1 for the next half-hour, €2 for the half-hour after that and then a whopping €4 for the following half hours. In other words if you have the bike for 2 hours it's going to cost you €7. But its free (apart from the subscription) if you have the bike for less than half an hour. So the whole idea of this scheme is very short-term rental - long enough to get you from one end of the city to the other. Using a bike instead of the Metro, bus or tram.

The bikes are 3 speed clunkers weighing 22kg (50lbs). They come equipped with front basket, lock, reflectors and dynamo-powered (in the wheel hub) lights. No safety helmet is supplied but you do get a map of the city and its cyclepaths. (A shot of Absinthe to give you courage to negotiate the Paris traffic wouldn't go astray)

Now while this sounds like a pretty good idea I'm not so sure. The Town Hall proudly boasts that Paris now has 371 kilometres (230 miles) of bike tracks. Well yeah...but they are not integrated - they start and stop. And whilst they are supposed to be dedicated to cyclists it doesn't work like that. Pedestrians and joggers use them. Motorbikes and scooters use them. Cars and trucks park across them. And the bastard Paris dogs shit in them. They can be downright dangerous. So that forces you back onto the road where you battle with the aggressive French drivers and the suicidal jaywalking pedestrians. This is the biggest problem as I see it - the jaywalkers. French people don't respect the pedestrian crossings - they walk against the red all the time. And cars don't respect the red lights either. When in France you're well-advised as a pedestrian to give way to cars and motorbikes even if you have a green Walk sign. Jaywalking seems to be a national sport.

Paris Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, has pledged to double the number of cycle lanes by next year and reduce car traffic by 40% by 2020. Which would be a good thing - air pollution, especially in high Summer, can be horrific. But the French need to introduce a Road Safety campaign. They've finally started to get serious about Drink Driving. Now they need to address other dangerous practices like talking on your cellphone when driving. And they need to educate everyone to respect the rights of cyclists to the bike-lanes. Otherwise they become next to useless. BTW, talking of unsafe driving practices, I saw a man on a motor scooter yesterday, with his toddler sitting between his knees, weaving in and out of the traffic. The kid was wearing a helmet though.

The Town Hall claims that the number of bikes has increased by 50% over the last six years but the number of cycling accidents remains the same. I would dispute those figures - it could well be that more bikes have been sold but Parisians aren't regular users of their velos unlike, say, the Dutch. Only 40,000 of the 2.5 million Parisians say they use their bikes regularly.

If you have a romantic vision of hiring a Velib and pedalling nonchalantly through Paris whistling la Vie en Rose, waving gaily at the Monsieurs and Madames whilst clutching a freshly-baked baguette in one hand and a Gauloises in the other you probably need to think again. At the very least I would bring a bike-helmet and a set of truck airhorns.

Here is the crap Velib Site - very public service bland, boring and only in French.

There's a report Here on Velocité of a 25 year old cyclist killed when she was run over by a 15 tonne truck on July 4 near la Republique. In a spot that has also seen the death of a young boy also run over by a truck.

Want a good laugh? Read what these hostel-stayers have to say about the so-called Top Ten Paris Hostels - bed-bugs and mice in the rooms? In Paris? Merde!

Speaking of bikes - check out the crazy contraptions on these 25 pages. Wild!

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