Be on the lookout: 3,000 Parisian bikes are missing

JEAN AYISSI/AFP/Getty Images Sacrebleu! Around 3,000 bikes have been stolen since Paris introduced its “bike-for-hire” program a year ago, while another 3,000 have been damaged or destroyed. Some of the missing bikes have popped up as far away as Australia. Despite thefts and damages, Paris’s bike-rental program has been a success, spurring spin-off systems as ...

593935_080717_velib5.jpg
593935_080717_velib5.jpg

JEAN AYISSI/AFP/Getty Images

Sacrebleu! Around 3,000 bikes have been stolen since Paris introduced its "bike-for-hire" program a year ago, while another 3,000 have been damaged or destroyed. Some of the missing bikes have popped up as far away as Australia.

Despite thefts and damages, Paris's bike-rental program has been a success, spurring spin-off systems as far away as Sydney, Spain, the United States, and Finland. In Paris, vélib' customers rent bikes by paying a yearly, monthly, or daily subscription fee, either through a prepaid card or by credit card at one of the city's 1,200 bike stations. The best part? Any rental under 30 minutes is free.

JEAN AYISSI/AFP/Getty Images

Sacrebleu! Around 3,000 bikes have been stolen since Paris introduced its “bike-for-hire” program a year ago, while another 3,000 have been damaged or destroyed. Some of the missing bikes have popped up as far away as Australia.

Despite thefts and damages, Paris’s bike-rental program has been a success, spurring spin-off systems as far away as Sydney, Spain, the United States, and Finland. In Paris, vélib’ customers rent bikes by paying a yearly, monthly, or daily subscription fee, either through a prepaid card or by credit card at one of the city’s 1,200 bike stations. The best part? Any rental under 30 minutes is free.

The vélib’ system is popular for other reasons too, like its environmental friendliness. The program has also generated substantial revenues for Paris’s government, which allows the company JCDecaux to use 1,600 free advertising spaces in exchange for bearing the system’s costs.

But the vélibs aren’t without problems. Three riders have already been struck and killed this year, and many motorists complain of unskilled cyclists clogging the roads. The safety situation is further complicated by the fact that vélib’ stations don’t rent helmets.

Still, other congested cities are starting their own bike rental programs soon, albeit on a smaller scale. Washington’s “Smartbike” program will kick off in August with just 120 bikes, while Chicago’s is still tied up with legal issues. Rental programs are currently enjoying success in Vienna, Copenhagen, and Rome, though Paris by far boasts the largest system.

With gas prices these days, more people around the world will no doubt soon be pedaling like the Parisians. Hopefully the French will soon be able to boast about their reduced auto usage — but first they’d better make sure they can keep enough bikes around.

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