posted on July 20, 2007 06:47
The talk of Paris this week is cycling. Not le Tour, though, but le Velib' - the new public bikes introduced by the mairie (city hall) last Sunday, following the example of Lyon (where the scheme has been in place for a couple of years).
All around the city, at intervals of a few hundred metres, there are rows of bikes, available to use for a subscription of €1 daily, €5 weekly or €29 for a year. The first half hour use is free but then you must pay €1 for the next half hour, and so on. A €150 deposit dissuades you from keeping or trashing the velo.
With such charges, the scheme is aimed more at short-hop commuters rather than tourists. Still, technically it's possible to cycle free for a whole day - if you change bicycles every half hour. Strategic planning comes in handy.
As it happens, most of Paris is within 20 minutes cycling range - from the Arc de Triomphe to the Bastille (the west-east axis) is fairly flat, but Montmartre and Saint Michel are on hills. In particular, cycling up Montmartre would be a bit of a slog - the bikes (right) are built to be durable and at 22kg are quite heavy as well as being unattractive. And all are girls' bikes!
Also, Parisian drivers are notoriously homicidal, and there aren't many cycle lanes in the city centre.
Still, the initial take-up has been a huge success and everyone is talking about using them this summer. Look out for them next time you visit Paris.
Could something similar work in Dublin, Cork, Belfast or Galway?More ...