On July 15, 2007 Paris debuted the world's largest self-service "bicycle transit system" called Vélib outdoing previously designed bike share programs. Vélib is a balance of scale and functionality, clocking in with more than 20,000 bikes, and 1,451 docking stations, which are never more than 1,000 feet apart. As a result, Vélib is effectively a new form of public transportation that has generated more than 25 million new bicycle trips in its first year, 10% of which substitute former car trips.Today the program celebrates its first anniversary. And, throughout the year cities across the globe have kept a close eye on the progress of this environmentally-friendly public transportation mode. Overall, bike-share programs have proven to increase public transportation options at a relatively low cost to the city. Any registered user can "borrow" a bike from a station for a nominal fee and return it to any other station in the system. In Paris, Vélib has saved the city 10 million km in car trips, roughly equal to $10 million in savings. With 200,000 Parisians paying the city $50 each for an annual Velib pass, this has yielded an additional $10 million in revenues. Beyond economics, Paris has seen tremendous traffic calming and air quality benefits from this public bicycle system. Here in the States, a bike share program is about to kick off in Washington DC, and Chicago and San Francisco are in the process of implementation as well. Last week The New York City Department of Transportation announced its plans to examine the possibility of creating a bike share program. In April, I had the chance to visit Paris with Transportation Alternatives' Caroline Samponaro to learn about Vélib. Check out this video to get a picture of it yourself. Oh, and Happy Birthday Vélib!
Speaker: [0:19] Velib is part of Paris now. It's part of the city now.
Eric Britton: [0:22] What's interesting about the public bicycle systems is that they have started to have a renaissance in the last three or four years which corresponds exactly to our interest and our commitment to doing something about global warming and they are something that can be realized in a city in a very short period of time.
Sky Orndoff: [0:38] You get half an hour of free bike usage per time you check out a bike. That's unlimited per day so you can have as many free half hours as you want. You just have to go check your bike back in. [musical interlude]
Thomas Valeau: [1:07] Here you are in the heart of the biggest system in the world, with 1,451 stations, 20,600 bicycles, more than 3,000,000 subscribers. [musical interlude]
Eric Britton: [1:27] I want a Velib ticket. Insert my card. And we find ourselves a bike. We first of all, we make sure that the tires are OK. See if the seat works. Bring it up, and we take our Velib card, we just flash it over, one, two, three, and off we go. [musical interlude]
Didier Couval: [1:57] In Paris we had around 200 kilometers of cycle network in 2001 and in 2007 we have already 400 kilometers so that we doubled the length of the network.
Celine Lepault: [speaking French] [2:16]
Didier Couval: [2:28] Around 30 percent of the traffic of bicycle is made by Velib. It was a good way to demonstrate that it could be possible to ride on bicycle in a big a city like Paris.
Celine Lepault: [speaking French] [2:45]
Norma Mashaal: [2:52] Velib has convinced a lot of people that cycling in Paris is not that dangerous.
Speaker: [2:59] I'm a new bike rider. I didn't. I just took the subway. It's very practical. I guess a car is not an option in Paris because there's literally no space to park. Velib, it's easier than having a bike yourself because having the bike at home means that I have to keep it inside the apartment.
Speaker: [3:16] We have to go to Republic. It's 10 minutes by bike but if you have to take the metro you have to take a bus, then take another metro and then it's maybe half an hour.
Speaker: [3:26] What happens now is you have a day, you have your Velib card. You say, "Oh, I have to get an errand there and then there are two stations that I have to go through to go to another place." You don't do it anymore. You've just got Velib. You take it. Do your errands. It's very, very easy. [musical interlude]
Eric Britton: [3:52] You cannot start a system with 20 stations in such a big city like New York.
Sky Orndoff: [3:59] You have to go big enough to where it's at least one bike per 200 residents. I think that's a bare minimum for the good function of the system.
Didier Couval: [4:08] Cities who made too small organization and too small network don't have real success. For example, in France in Rhine, the metric of public bicycle is not really efficient because when you have nothing after a station, nothing after bicycle, the people don't use it.
Pierre Eric Spitz: [4:30] If you want to borrow a bike and go somewhere, you have to put it back in a place very near where you go. If you have to walk very far to put your bike back in a station, that won't work. Thomas Valeau: [4:44] The network of Velib stations is built according to the model chain with another transportation means.
Caroline Samponaro: [4:54] The best part about Velib is really a combination of things. One is the number of bikes, the number of stations, and the way that it interacts with public transit that already exists in Paris. So effectively it becomes just another form of public transportation.
[5:10] You can see at this station you can ride along the protected bike lane. You see a Velib stop. You park your bike. You get on the metro and go to your next destination. Seamless. It's easy. It's fun. What's better than having a public bike be a part of your public transportation system?
Speaker: [5:33] We take the metro, I think, because I think it's very convenient, but it's very pleasant to ride when the sun is shining.
Speaker: [speaking French] [5:44]
Speaker: [speaking French] [5:45]
Celine Lepault: [speaking French] [5:50]
Speaker: [6:18] After a year or so people know how to use the stations. But if you have tourists or stuff like that, they don't know. I always notice that people, you know, stop and help them.
Eric Britton: [6:30] There was only four months of time to build the actual system itself in order to have it online by the 15th of July, 2007. What's wrong with it? Well, again, everybody says the same thing. First of all they say, "There are bicycles that are not working in the system, that there are problems with the tires, there are problems with the chains, the brakes are not always perfectly adjusted." Yes. Yes. But this is the exception and not the rule. But there are people by nature of their very personalities only see the things that don't work.
Celine Lepault: [speaking French] [7:05]
Eric Britton: [7:26] We calculate that for every kilometer of car traffic they're able to remove from the city, you save a dollar. So if you take a look at the fact that 5, or 10 percent of all Velib trips replace what were formerly car trips, I think the latest number is around 3,000,000 trips over the course of the last eight and a half months. That's 300,000 car trips, average trip length of five kilometers. Multiply that by a dollar per kilometer and you've got a big number there. So we're already saving millions of dollars through the introduction of this system, and we're just starting.
Eric Britton: [8:10] Just about everybody loves it.