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Velib', Great, but Apparently Expensive

After I got back from Paris, I couldn’t stop talking about how much I LOVE Velib’, the low-cost municipal bike system in Paris.

(This is definitely off topic, but I see Fred Wilson also has fallen in love and it reminded me of a story I read recently. I’m cross posting something I did on BW’s Green Business)

Well, Velib’ is about to celebrate its first anniversary in Paris with a little parade on the Champs Elysees ahead of the Tour de France bike riders. Parisians love it, a survey found that 98% were pleased with the program.

It’s a massive success from a popularity standpoint, but it also sounds like the system is expensive to keep up. Le Figaro reports that in Paris, 3,000 bikes have been stolen and nearly as many put out of service, or around 30% of the entire number of bikes. Meantime, to make the bikes sturdier, JCDecaux, the company running the program, has had to make adjustments like adding a thicker bike lock and adding more soldering for the basket. The result is that the cost per bike jumped to 2,500 Euros from 1,000.

Le Figaro also reports that in Lyon, which first initiated the bike program in France, the JCDecaux, wants to renegotiate its contract, which it says is losing 3 million Euros annually.

Nothing in the story about how this is affecting the Parisian program, which links together a contract allowing JCDecaux to run billboards in the city.

Still, as more countries and cities start looking to Velib’ as a way to handle emissions and traffic (car traffic fell 5% in Paris after the launch of Velib’), it’s the kind of things to keep track of.

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