Bike Blog: We’ll Never Have Paris (Will we?)

This week’s Pic of the Week (courtesy of AFP photo) is Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley riding a bicycle in Paris. During a visit to the City of Lights, he proclaimed yesterday that he wants a bicycle rental system similar to the Velib, a Paris’ new and truly revolutionary plan to increase biking and decrease car traffic in their capital.

Paris’ new and truly revolutionary plan to increase biking and descrease car traffic in their capital began in mid-July, when Paris put some 10,000 bicycles – called ‘Velibs’ --on the streets (more are coming) at seven hundred and fifty different locations, for residents to pick up whenever they want to, ride to another location, and drop off.

It’s been tried before: in my collegiate years in Madison, Wisconsin there was a similar yellow bike’ program that utilized hideously painted yellow bikes (too ugly to be worth stealing, was the idea) that would be free for the masses. But they all got stolen.

But the Paris program is far more ambitious, far better organized, and – so far, at least – far more successful. To get the bike, you put down a deposit of one hundred and fifty euros, and then use a metro card -- the same one you would use to take a bus or train. If you don’t return the bike (on time, too), you get fined from the deposit.] about it. So far, Velibs have inspired a kind of wonderful bike frenzy – within just 18 days of the start of the program, over a million people had used the bicycles. The current total is around three and a half million riders.

Mayor Daley, who (whatever else you want to say about him) has championed biking in Chicago for years, likes the idea and says he’s considering bringing the whole shebang to Chicago. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of that plan.

The Bike Blog would be thrilled to hear similar pronouncements from Mayors Diaz or Alvarez . . . but we won’t hold our breath. I mean, we’ll always have Paris, right? -- Isaiah Thompson

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