“Vélib is here to stay,” say officials

Posted by on February 12th, 2009 at 1:34 pm

A Vélib bicycle
(Photo: austinevan on Flickr)

We reported yesterday on a BBC article predicting the demise of Paris’s Vélib bicycle sharing program due to theft, vandalism, and increased costs.

Streetsblog has done some research of their own and discovered that the threat may not be so great as the BBC article makes it seem.

Story continues below


Ben Fried writes:

So is Vélib destined to burn brightly only to flare out after a short time? Hardly. Vélib is here to stay, according to officials and transportation experts familiar with the details of its operations. The BBC’s portrayal of a mortal threat, they say, is best understood as a negotiating ploy on the part of JCDecaux. (Note that the JCDecaux representative is the only source quoted in that story.)

Fried interviews Eric Britton, a Paris-based transportation advocate and blogger who has closely followed the development of Vélib. Britton says that the program is still hugely popular, far from losing public support, and that the amount of loss sustained through theft and vandalism is “like skinning your knee.”

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    axe February 12, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    three cheers for the corporate media!

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    robert February 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Looking at that frame design I for one would not be doing the velib extreme stunts I saw on the internet yesterday!

    One giant bar with no bracing. Yikes!

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    Snowflake Seven February 12, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I just this week watched PBS’s “e2: transport” episode on the Paris Vélib program.

    I heard about it back when launched (likely thanks to BikePortland) but was surprised at how the public-private partnership to run the program was structured.

    The way the Paris officials framed it was that JCDecaux would be making a killing from the free billboard/advertising space the acquired through the deal. The value of the ad space should have far out-stripped the expense of running the Vélib program.

    I am not at all surprised that as the economy tanks globally, JCDecaux is nervous that their windfall profit margin on the program (due to the free ad space) is shrinking.

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    stanley February 12, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Hello from france,

    Velib is not a bad idea,but believe me it’s hard to create a perfect bike,people pay a really cheap price to rent the bikes every month.
    And i think it creates in people’s brain a feel of “i can hardly use the Velib”with no care.
    Velib use a nexus integrated shifting system,really heavy frame,hard to crack it and pretty large rims.
    Sadly as a french citizen,i think vandalism and no respect for public environment is granted….
    Velib is a great idea but need to be follow in the future.
    the system itself is a great idea,let’s time do the job and see.

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    Spencer Boomhower February 12, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    the amount of loss sustained through theft and vandalism is “like skinning your knee.”

    Kinda what commenters in the other thread were getting at: doing the math, comparing the losses to the massive number of trips, and finding the losses were quite minor overall. Funny how the BBC article seemed unable (or unwilling) to do the same.

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    Steve Durrant February 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    The BBC report (and derivatives) will live on in many minds as the authoritative death knell for puiblic bike programs, and will unfortunately slow down some cities and creative new approaches.

    We (Alta) are helping several cities consider and design public bike programs. There are barriers, including bike attrition, but they are surmountable.

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    John February 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    That’s more like it! Thanks for the update!
    If the numbers the BBC reported are accurate, and Velib is in fact decently managing the finances, the story between-the-lines sounds a lot more like they’re at capacity with room to grow. I was beginning to suspect that they’d pulled the old mistake of letting success drive growth beyond what the cash flow of the business would support. Maybe not!

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    John February 13, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Steve —
    Fortunately, a death knell containing its own rebuttal! Crunching some numbers that directly contradict the story which contains them is a darn fine way of rebutting someone presenting the story. This article is a perfect example: you can reference it directly, and easily make a mockery of anyone who presents the story as damning evidence. It’s not often one gets the chance to rub an opponent’s nose in thier own argument, but when the opportunity arises, it’s a killer strategy.

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