Paris’ bike-sharing system “unsustainable” says operator

[NOTE: Streetsblog has a different perspective on this story. They say Velib corporate sponsor JCDecaux is manipulating this story in the media to their benefit. Read more here.]

Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen…vandalism and theft are taking their toll…The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.
— The BBC

Paris’ “Velib” bike-sharing system has been heralded as the most successful implementation of its kind in the world. Cities around the globe have pointed to success in Paris in order to justify their own bike-sharing systems. However, an article published Tuesday by the BBC reports that 18 months after its launch, Velib has hit a rough patch:

From the BBC:

“Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen. They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll.”

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Surprisingly, the story also reports that the company that runs Velib — advertising juggernaut JCDecaux says “it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.”

(Graphic: BBC)

Making matters worse, according to the article, is a YouTube sensation/trend known as “Velib Extreme” where people are taking the bikes down staircases and on BMX courses just for kicks.

The fate of the Velib program is sure to put a damper on plans by several major cities who have already launched — or were planning to launch similar systems.

Here in Portland, officials began seriously looking into a bike-sharing system in February of 2007, but then shelved the idea in June of the following year. (Mayor Sam Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller wrote a six-part series for BikePortland on Portland’s bike sharing plans (here’s Part One) back in November.)

The theft troubles faced by Velib in Paris are sure to remind some folks of a similar situation with Portland’s Yellow Bike Program, which was launched by the Community Cycling Center in 1994. Here’s a snip about it from the bicycle sharing program entry in Wikipedia that’s eerily similar:

“Portland’s Yellow Bike Project was an amazing publicity success, but proved unsustainable initially due to theft and vandalism of the bicycles…”

Read the BBC article here.

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