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Bike share turns five in France

There are few things that France does well. Sorry, there are a few things that France does well.

Bike share schemes would be near the top of the list; followed closely by well anyway I digress.

Saturday marked not only France’s national day, Bastille Day, but the 5th anniversary of the pioneering Velib’ bike share scheme in Paris.

Despite initial scepticism, 138 million people have used the 23,000 rental bikes to date, whose name is a contraction of ‘velo’ (bike) and ‘liberty’.

The system has redefined public transport in the city, aided no end by Paris’ heavily concentrated population, small circumference and relatively flat gradients.

The lack of helmet laws also mean chic Parisians can take a bike without fear for their careful coifs.

‘Independence and freedom in transportation’

“Five years ago, I could not have imagined that Vélib’ would have such good results,” Bernard Delanoë, who launched the scheme as mayor of Paris, told Tierramérica.

“My goal was to try out a different policy, to help Parisians recover their independence and freedom in transportation, and at the same time, to reduce air pollution.”

Velib’ has served as a model for 34 other French cities, not to mention, Melbourne, London, San Francisco and New York. No, not New York – we’ll get to that, hang on.

In London, the popularity of the bikes have been a boost to mayor Boris Johnson, and even Prince William and Kate have admitted to using them – one of the rare occasions when Royals being involved in a scheme turned out to be a good news story!

Bike share in Australia

In Melbourne, the scheme is showing signs of life, despite the odd damning television evidence to the contrary. The Melbourne Bike Users’ Group is currently rallying support to exempt the bike share scheme from mandatory helmet laws, which are widely seen as hindering its take up.

Meanwhile in Sydney, Lord Mayor Clover Moore plans to introduce a bike-hire scheme “as soon as possible”.

“In practice we will revisit it as bike links are finished. From looking at bike-hire schemes in other cities, we know a safe network of bike paths must be in place to make it work,” Moore told Chappelli in an exclusive Twitter interview late last year.

What’s up New York?

Which brings us to New York. The news this week was that the roll-out of the highly anticipated Citibikes would be postponed, again, this time till August. @mattseaton in his Guardian blog ruminated on whether the full 7,000 bikes would be rolled out at that time, or an initial few working demo stations, with an incremental rollout.

What do you think about bike share schemes? What are the chances of Sydney starting one?

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