Hire bikes rescue stranded Parisians

Transport strike puts bums on bikes

Paris’ cycle hire scheme Velib has come to the rescue of commuters stranded by a French public transport strike.

The city’s rental scheme had already been hailed a massive success, with more than five million rides since its launch in mid-July.

Yesterday the capital’s hire bikes were beseiged by Parisians who took to two wheels to beat the chaos.

The nationwide strike, triggered by a showdown between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and public service unions over pensions, ended today (Friday 19) but is not expected to be the last.

Trains, buses and the Parisian metro all ground to a halt, leaving the Velibscheme as one of the few remaining options to get across the capital.

Rentals of the city’s 10,000 bikes reportedly doubled, from 100,000 a day to 200,000 at the strike’s peak.

Elsewhere in France, people living in Lyon also took advantage of a city-wide bike rental service to travel around.

The overwhelming success of the Velib scheme has prompted interest in similar projects worldwide, in cities including London, New York and Chicago.

Beijing is also on board, with a 50,000 bike city-wide scheme gearing up for the start of next year’s Olympic Games.

Velib members, who have to pay a deposit to register with the scheme get their first half hour ride for free each time they take a bike from one of the city’s 750 stands. Rental then increases on a sliding scale per hour, to dissuade people from taking a bike for an entire day, and to keep as many of the bikes in circulation as possible. The cycles are weightier than a normal city bike, partly due to their heavy duty "vandal proof" design and are equipped with a lock.

The project has been funded by the exclusive rental of Parisian billboards to advertising giant JC Decaux.

Back to top