March 9, 2008

Transportation- Bike Share Vélib

Kallie Weinkle

CITY: Paris
NAME: Vélib

LAUNCHED: July, 2007
BICYCLES: 20,000

Nearly 25% of all carbon emissions in the US are from motor vehicles.
62% of that is from personal vehicle usage.

Choosing to ride a bicycle as opposed to driving a car is an effective way of considerably reducing your carbon footprint. Particularly in downtown urban environments where 20-40% of traffic is due to trying to find a parking spot.

Many cities throughout Europe (and now beginning in the US) are implementing citywide bike share programs. The largest and most successful to date is Paris's Vélib which was launched in July 2007 starting with 10,000 bicycles at 750 stations.

Users must prepay, with a credit card for a daily pass at €1, a weekly pass at €5 or an annual pass at €29. The card will be swiped at the Vélib station and the user will be charged according to how long the bicycle is rented out. The first half hour is free with the price increasing exponentially after that, €1 for 1 hour, €3 for 1.5 hours, €7 for 2 hours, €31 for 5 hours etc.

Users can return the bicycles to any Vélib rental station. It does not have to be the one they rented from.

The city collects and redistribute the bicycles throughout the city.

Paris got the bikes, worth around $2,000 each, in trade. Advertiser JCDecaux covers the cost of the venture in exchange for exclusive rights to 1,600 billboards across the city.

Vélib seems to be a success. It is the largest and most widely used bicycle-sharing program to date.

Vélib targets residents of Paris, commuters, as well as tourists as their customer base offering membership options for all groups.

Key to the success of the program is that the first half hour is free, encouraging the bicycles to be used for the purpose of getting from one place to another, cutting into car and public transportation usage.

Along with the inception of Vélib the city of Paris also widened sidewalks and reappropriated car lanes for usage by bus and bike. Originally this decision was met with opposition, but has since gained considerable popularity.


In the image of Vélib the first self-serve public bike sharing program in the United States, SmartBike, will be located in Washington DC.

SmartBike DC will begin operation with 100 bicycles at 10 locations throughout DC. Users will pay a yearly membership fee of $39.99 via the web, and will then receive a membership card, which will allow them to access the bikes.

Rental is free, but a fee of $200.00 will be charged if the bicycle is not returned within 24 hours.


Compared to Vélib SmartBike DC isn’t nearly as comprehensive.

SmartBike targets mainly commuters and specifically excludes tourists, offering on their website alternative bike rental options.

That DC only will have 10 of these locations throughout the city, as opposed to Paris’ every 900 feet, will exclude much of it’s targeted audience. (The locations are not actually that close to each other and will only be useful if you happen to be traveling from and to a location in the direct vicinity of one of the stations.)

However as the first of it’s kind in the United States, DC has taken an important step in the advocacy of bicycle usage and has set a precedent for other US cities to follow.

Now that this service is in place the US Government can take a supporting role by offering incentives to their employees in order to increase usage and encourage the expansion of the program.

1 comment:

charlie cannon said...

from john thackara's doors of perception email list

The Velib city bike system in Paris is getting a lot of international media
attention of late. It's an important first step toward creating a high
quality, low cost, low carbon new mobility strategy for your city.
Want one for your city, too? This New Mobility Policy Brief is
a mayor's guide to City Bike Strategies.