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Velib', Great, but Apparently Expensive

Posted by: Heather Green on July 02, 2008

After I got back from Paris, I couldn’t stop talking about how much I LOVE Velib’, the low-cost municipal bike system in Paris. (I see Fred Wilson also has fallen in love.)

Well, Velib’ is about to celebrate its first anniversary in Paris with a little parade on the Champs Elysees ahead of the Tour de France bike riders. Parisians love it, a survey found that 98% were pleased with the program.

It’s a massive success from a popularity standpoint, but it also sounds like the system is expensive to keep up. Le Figaro reports that in Paris, 3,000 bikes have been stolen and nearly as many put out of service, or around 30% of the entire number of bikes. Meantime, to make the bikes sturdier, JCDecaux, the company running the program, has had to make adjustments like adding a thicker bike lock and adding more soldering for the basket. The result is that the cost per bike jumped to 2,500 Euros from 1,000.

Le Figaro also reports that in Lyon, which first initiated the bike program in France, the JCDecaux, wants to renegotiate its contract, which it says is losing 3 million Euros annually.

Nothing in the story about how this is affecting the Parisian program, which links together a contract allowing JCDecaux to run billboards in the city.

Still, as more countries and cities start looking to Velib’ as a way to handle emissions and traffic (car traffic fell 5% in Paris after the launch of Velib’), it’s the kind of things to keep track of.

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Reader Comments

dominic furfaro

July 18, 2008 10:11 AM

Seems as if the marriage of socialism and capitalism in Paris was implemented with false expectations. As I have browsed news reports on this system this is the first negative economic report with actual numbers. During the Paris transit strike there were Parisians experiencing bike rage when there were not enough bikes for rent. Over 300 workers were reported to be on the job repairing broken bikes. How does low cost to consumer and the high cost of machine and maintenance balance? Apparently advertising fees,member fees and rental fees have been underestimated. I would like to see a balance sheet of true cost. Minneapolis is studying bike share so any lead on cost would be appreciated.

Adam Aston

July 29, 2008 02:03 PM

Given the wild success of the Velib, Paris city officials are now considering extending the program to a fleet of small electric cars that residents and tourists alike could borrow for a few hours. I hope the green gurus in NYC's city hall are watching!

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