THOUSANDS of Parisians have backed a bike rental scheme in the French capital.
The initiative, which has seen 10,000 cycles provided on the city's streets, is already being hailed a success after some 13,000 members signed up yesterday.
The three speed bikes are available 24 hours a day from 750 stations which have been built around the historic city.
Socialist mayor Betrand Delanoe, who came into power in 2001, wants to cut car traffic in Paris by 40 per cent by 2020, a hefty target by any standards.
He's already funded some 125 miles of cycle track in the notoriously busy city - although major roads like the Champs Elysees remain a danger zone for those on two wheels.
Currently about 40,000 Parisians cycle regularly. Delanoe is hoping his cycling rental revolution will increase than number to 250,000 by January next year.
Speaking at the launch on July 15 he said, "In the morning, you can go to work in the tram and come home by bike; it depends on the weather.
"It depends on your mood and on your friends."
Users can sign up for a day, a week or a year, making the scheme open to tourists and Parisians alike.
Once membership has been arranged, including a holding deposit, users can then have a half hour ride for free. After this the cost of rental increases on a sliding scale per hour as time goes on, to dissuade people from just grabbing a bike for the day, and keep as many of the bikes in circulation.The bikes are heavier than a normal run around, partly due to the "vandal proof" design and are equipped with a lock.
Pocket road safety guides are being handed out to people signing up for the scheme but users who want to wear helmets have to provide their own.
Delanoe plans to double the number of bikes available by January next year.
The project has been funded by the exclusive rental of some 1,628 billboards to advertising giant JC Decaux. The program has been called Velib a hybrid of the French words for bicycle (velo), and freedom (liberte). Velib follows the success of similar schemes in other European cities, including Stockholm, Lyon, Barcelona and Copenhagen.