Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Velib

Bike-share program rides into Vancouver this weekend

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Georgia Straight

Starting tomorrow (June 12), Vancouverites will have the chance to test-run a bike-share program, which has recently gained popularity in Montreal as a cheap, environmentally-friendly, and around-the-clock transit system.

From Friday to Monday (June 15), the City of Vancouver will be hosting a public bike-system demonstration along the seawall area of Science World.

I won’t go, since I have already had a chance to sample the Paris velib program, so I am already a convert! But one thing we will need to sort out is how is this program going to deal with the requirements of the helmet law? They are not needed in Paris – and thanks to the chain cover you do not even need bicycle clips on your trousers. Just get on and go.  I also suspect that the costs of vandalism will be high here too.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 11, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Posted in bicycles

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The Decuax Brothers Innovation

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Paris has a striking new hallmark, as anyone who has visited the city in the past year can attest: thousands of gray bicycles that can be rented for a small fee and dropped off at will at high-tech bike stands around town. The Vélib’ self-service scheme has been a roaring success, with more than 30 million rentals since the launch in July 2007. As a result, bicycles have become a mainstream — and very green — form of public transportation in the French capital.

I have written about velib (just click on the tag below) here a number of times and am an admitted fan. This article from Time magazine is from their “moguls and entrepreneurs” series, and is mostly about the business aspects. And I have included it here because I think iot offests some of the rather snarky stuff about thefts and vandalism that seemed to permeate some of the coverage I linked to.

I did not know that it had started in Vienna – or that it has now spread to 49 other cities. Which makes me even more irritated that it seems to be going nowhere fast here, mostly because of all these elections. And probably Vancouver’s long standing distaste for billboards.

(hat tip to HBreen)

Written by Stephen Rees

October 13, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Posted in bicycles

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Montreal gets velib

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New text from CBC

Montreal unveils ambitious bike-rental program
‘BIXIs’ will be available at 300 stations across the city
Last Updated: Monday, September 22, 2008 | 10:01 AM ET
CBC News

Montreal introduced a new self-service, bike-rental system on Sunday modelled after the highly successful Vélib’ program in Paris.

So far there are only 40 of the bicycles available — the city calls them BIXIs, a mix of bicycle and taxi — but the plan is to have 2,400 BIXIs in service by next spring. In Paris, the Vélib’ service provides
more than 10,000 bicycles.

“It’s not for long trips. You ride it and you return it, and [for] the first half hour there’s no charge,” Mayor Gérald Tremblay said Sunday.

“We sincerely believe that a lot of citizens who are not presently commuting with a bicycle will use the bicycles,” he said.

The service will cost $28 a month, or $78 for seven months. Users can buy a day pass for $5.

Montrealer Michel Gourdeau won an online contest to name the bike service.

“Well, I’m a user of bicycles myself, and I thought it would be a good idea to participate and try to find a name that is special,” he said.

Gourdeau felt BIXI had “a nice international feel to it.”

The city will deploy a squad of BIXI experts to explain how to use the rental service over the next few months.

When it’s fully in service there will be 300 BIXI stations around the city where the bicycles can be rented or returned.

The $15-million system is being paid for by Stationnement de Montreal, the company that manages the city’s on-street parking.

It hopes to recoup its investment through the membership fees.

The bikes are designed entirely in Quebec, and are made of 100 per cent recyclable aluminum. The bike parking stations are powered by solar energy.

velib park

Written by Stephen Rees

September 21, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Posted in bicycles

Tagged with , ,

Success of Velib in Paris Tempered by Costs of Maintenance

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Found on Bike Europe by the indefatigable cycling advocate Ron Richings

Currently there are 16,000 Vélib’s in circulation while there will be 20,600 bikes by the end of 2008. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of bikers in Paris has increased by 94% while car traffic has dropped 20% since then. Today the bike accounts for 2 to 3% of all traffic in Paris.

The down site of Vélib’s success is the huge cost as a result of vandalism and spare parts. In the first half year JCDecaux already spent € 20.6 million to keep the bikes on the road.

I really enjoyed my day on Velib – but the comments about vandalism struck a chord. But there are so many bikes available that you do not get stuck with a clunker for long, just swap it at the next “station”!

By the way take a look at the parked cars – in Parisian terms those are generous gaps between the cars. Compare this use of curb space to Steveston where Richmond has managed to cut the number of parking spaces available by simply painting lines to delineate each space – and each one large enough for an SUV!

Velib a Paris

Velib a Paris

Written by Stephen Rees

August 5, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Posted in bicycles, Transportation

Tagged with , ,

Trip Wrap Up

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I got back yesterday after a ten hour flight, a nine hour time difference, and a bag full of dirty laundry.

The hotel in Paris did offer wi-fi – provided by Orange, for a price – but it only worked with PCs running Windows! This seems a bit contrary to Europe in general which has been very supportive officially of other systems and especially open source. And no help to us with an iMac and a Linux notebook.

This is just my impressions of Paris and by no means a thoroughly researched comparison.

The Eurostar from St Pancras was completely unremarkable, and almost devoid of any sensation. The train is very fast, but if you don’t have a window next to your seat – sadly an all too common experience when coaches are designed for first class seat pitch and then used for closer second class seating – there is nothing but the popping of your ears when entering a tunnel to indicate that. The trains are well used but not overcrowded – but people were using pull down seats in vestibules. Plenty of space for baggage (unlike the East Midlands trains Meridians) and two buffets (one for each half of the long train). We had a very nice lunch in the undercroft of the refurbished St Pancras so we did not need either. The Eurostar we were on stopped at both Ebbsfleet and Frethun – though neither produced the mob of people walking through the train you get on domestic services. And there was no on board ticket check. Running to time seems to be part of the culture, not a rare exception.  I was surprised that Channel ferries and local short hop airlines both seem to be competing effectively, but for my money the direct train service centre to centre still beats any other way to make this journey.

Paris has long had excellent Metro and RER (suburban rail) service. Buses are good too – lots of bus lanes – but not as popular as London, probably becuase they are not as well integrated. If you are using a carnet of tickets you need a separate one for bus and Metro. Much better to buy a day – or longer – period pass. But by far the best way to get around is the velib. This was a revelation – and something we should copy soon. There is a bike parking station every 300 metres – usually off the main boulevards. Becuase they are a city initiative  they are not in many many nationally controlled tourist attractions – where there is often a lot of unused space – but always close by. And with useful maps on both the bike stations, but stops and other civic amenities. Back streets are usually quite quiet, but frequently blocked by deliveries. If you do use the main boulkevards there is either a bus lane to share – or a marked bike path. Riding on sidewalks is not allowed. Parisian drivers seem to accept cyclists in a way that Vancouver drivers need to emulate. No helmet is needed. There are marked bike areas ahead of the stop line in many major intersections.

Velo Lib Park

Velib Park

The velib has a basket, stand and a lock for use away from stations. There is really nothing to it. You swipe your credit card the first time to have a deposit reserved, and you get an identity number and select a PIN. Thereafter you can pickup and drop off where ever it is convenient. There is also a longer term proximity read card for locals, which cuts the time needed for pushing buttons. The machines have English and Spanish instructions (as well as French, of course) and it is the most relaxing and easy way to get around – because once you have locked it back to its post at the station you can forget about it.

Bastille Day is a Big Deal – and central Paris gets closed down for a rehearsal on the 13th and the big parade on the 14th. On these days the Metro is the best way to avoid the road blocks. On July 14 the Louvre is free!

RER line C along the south (left) bank of the Seine is being reconstructed – lots of signs about replacement buses and closed stations. There is much less information though that this also affects the RER line B (which serves the airports). The station where this line connects to C is also inaccessible. Yes, there are people to advise on other ways to connect, but none of the labelling on maps or line diagrams which I think is needed.

The Euro is much stronger than the Canadian dollar, and Paris has never been a very cheap place. But still well worth every sou! I would not recommend the Bateux Parisiens from Notre Dame as a way of sight seeing – not that there is anything wrong with the boats, just the complete absence of crowd control. Other operators seem to have bigger craft with more facilities on board and ashore. The Mussee D’Orsay is unmissable – and allow more than a couple of hours. A whole day would be worthwhile there. If you have small children, model sailing boats in the Luxembourg gardens and the zoo at Jardin des Plantes should be on the list. (We didn’t – but still enjoyed both).  Quite why Parisians are willing to line up and drink coffee out of paper cups at Starbucks beats me. The typical cafe with seating on the sidewalk – and waiter service – seems to me to be far superior in every respect.

Charles de Gaulle airport is huge and Terminal 3 a long walk – outside – from the RER Terminal 1 station. There does not appear to be a shuttle service. The terminal itself is just a shed – with no airbridges at the gates. Instead shuttle buses (with few seats) take passengers to the planes on the apron. Accessibility seems to have a generally lower place in priorities – not just in the airport but across the board. And those big rolling suitcases are seen everywhere – and usually with the owner of them struggling with stairs, turnstiles and other obstacles.  And on the Metro not only are the turnstiles mostly unmanned – but even where staff are present the plight of encumbered passengers is more a source of amused observation than actual help. Other passengers are much more helpful.

In England and France, chip and PIN cards (both debit and credit) are universal. While our cards mostly worked, they do not always. So have some cash if you want to buy metro ticket – their machines do not accept our cards. Nor will Marks and Spencers let you get Euros with a Canadian card (they have a big business now in commission free currency exchanges).

And too late for me but maybe not for you the Guardian has a list of the top 10 Paris Bistros on a Budget (prix fixe for E25 to 30). I did not visit any of these but will happily recommend

Cafe des Beaux Arts (left bank near Pont des Arts)

Brasserie au Soleil de la Butte (Montmatre)

Cafe au Petit Suisse (Rue Corneille, Luxemburg gardens)

Polidor (St Germain des Pres)

Written by Stephen Rees

July 17, 2008 at 11:05 am