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Transportation

The Great Parisian Bikeshare Meltdown

Glitches and worker strikes have brought the world’s first modern bikeshare program to its knees.  
This lucky Parisian seems to have found a bikeshare station that's working.
This lucky Parisian seems to have found a bikeshare station that's working.Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

There’s a twisted sort of good news for Parisian cyclists this week. This month, monthly and annual subscribers to Velib, the city’s pioneering bikeshare program, will be able to use its bikes completely free of charge. In fact, anyone who has paid upfront to subscribe to the service since January can apply to get their money back.

This deal may sound pretty sweet, but the background to its introduction is more than a little bitter. The reason for the free bike policy is to manage the fallout from an almighty urban screw up, one that for much of the past 12 months has left Velib’s day-to-day functioning and its overall reputation in tatters.