A rash of recent internet stories have portrayed Paris's public bike hire system Vélib - previously generally acknowledged as an outstanding and popular success story - as on the verge of collapse due to vandalism and theft.
Velib's own figures do indeed show significant losses to theft and vandalism: the current operating fleet is made up of 20,000 bicycles but 7,800 bikes have gone missing since the scheme's inception with 11,600 vandalised. This doesn't mean a fleet reduced to nothing - there is a rolling programme of daily repairs and replacements.
The scheme is run by French advertising company JCDecaux, on behalf of the City of
There is also, supposedly, a new craze of 'Vélib Extreme' - riding the hire bikes down the steps of the undergound and the like, complete with YouTube footage.
But many professionals from within the world of public transport schemes and some within the City of
The company has a ten year contract with the City and in return for taking on the organisation and expenses of the Vélib programme it receives a share of the public hire fees collected by the City and has rights to exploit advertising space in some 1,600 advertising hoardings around
The actual revenues Decaux receives under this agreement do not appear to have been made public.
Denis Baupin, the City politician who introduced Vélib said “Decaux is using media sensationalism to obtain more money.”