Paris Set for Invasion of Self-Service Bicycles reports:

Paris is bracing for a transport revolution later this year with the arrival of more than 20,000 self-service bicycles thanks to a deal between city hall and one of the world’s leading suppliers of urban advertising.

A contract signed Monday with JCDecaux gives the French firm access to more than 1,600 hoardings and other publicity sites, but also requires it to provide a mass system of cheap cycles-for-hire.

By the end of the year JCDecaux has undertaken to set up 1,451 stations, where customers can use swipe-cards to rent some 20,600 cycles for journeys around the capital. The bikes can be deposited at any station, and then picked up by new users.

A similar system has been run by JCDecaux since 2005 in the
southeastern city of Lyon, where city authorities have hailed it as a
major success in the campaign to reduce motor transport.

Examples of Lyon’s bicycle stations are available here.

Photo: Phil Moore/Flickr 

  • P


    New York has always been one of the world’s greatest walking and cycling cities, and contrary to Robert Sullivan, New York continues to be a leader in innovative transportation policy.

    And I’ll say that till you believe it.

  • Paris’s bold and broad set of solutions, goals and successes go much further and may be much more applicable than has perhaps been given attention.

    Recently reported in the Economist:

    Paris is weighing a master plan for to regulate transport in the future. City officials are proposing a “plan for urban movements” (plan de déplacements de Paris, or PDP) to promote public transport and reduce car use by 40% by 2020 compared with 2001 levels. Denis Baupin, the deputy mayor in charge of transport, believes the plan could curb greenhouse-gas emissions in Paris by one quarter by 2013. The PDP calls for commuter ferries, the closure of a rapid expressway along the Seine and new traffic lanes reserved for buses, bicycles and fuel-efficient cars. As part of a long approval process, the city council will debate the scheme on February 12th and 13th. Opponents complain that the plan will make it too difficult to store and drive cars in Paris.

    Reducing pollution and traffic has been a top priority of the mayor, Bertrand Delanoë. A key part of his plan is a tramway, which was successfully launched in December. The first new tramline serves only the southern rim of the city but it should at some stage join a longer line intended to ring the capital. Trams once criss-crossed Paris, but stopped running in 1935 as cars became more popular.

    Previous Paris Report

  • My favorite one of these: The German Die Bahn’s Call-a-Bike.

  • A loverly idea that will never work it will take a lot more than cheap bikes to get people out of cars.

  • Way to save gas!

  • P

    I agree that it’s not likely to reduce automobile traffic but it should increase the options (and quality of life) for transit riders and pedestrians who would like to make a quick ride rather than wait on a bus. And that’s good enough for me…
    You’re right- nice photograph.

  • P

    I was afraid my comment would look especially silly when you erased the spam…

  • Juliette

    An interesting twist: It seems that Paris is not paying for this program. The advertising/urban furniture company JC Decaux paid for the 14,100 bicycles (soon to be expanded to 20,600) AND 400 staff to manage the program, in exchange for 1,428 advertising spaces that they can rent out for 10 years.

  • Not only that, Juliette, the City of Paris is making money on the program. JC Decaux is kicking a percentage of ad revenue back to the city. I believe it’s a 12 year contract.

  • Free Luncher

    Has anyone looked a little closer at this free lunch? Is this really such a boon to anyone who already bikes or walks in the city?

    What do these “1,428 advertising spaces” look like? Where do these 14,100 bicycles park? Do they use sidewalk space?

    Here in New York we can’t park our bikes in our workspaces, our sidewalks are overflowing with people and we are inundated with annoying advertising. Would a Paris style fleet of share bikes help any of these problems?

    It seems likely they will want to put as many of these as they can in the most crowded part of the city to get the most advertising exposure. If they do, the bikes better go in existing parking spaces and not take an inch of sidewalk or park.

  • Yeah, I spoke with the city government guy overseeing the program. Will try to get the interview online shortly. They are scattering the bike stations throughout the city at strategic locations. JC Decaux isn’t independently deciding where they go. the locations are being chosen, I was told by city govt, completely based on their transportation value, not advertising.

    If you want to see a model of what it’s going to look like google “Lyon VeloV” or “Velo’V.”

    Keep in mind that Paris isn’t built on a grid. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies and mini-public plaza spaces where you can easily tuck in a bike rack without interfering with pedestrian flow.

    In NYC I imagine that the only way to do this would be to put the bike stations in the street in space currently occupied by parked cars.

  • Free Luncher

    Central Paris is a lot less dense than central New York City.

    There is nothing wrong with bike rental kiosks. But if City Hall is willing to take away on-street parking for other uses, let’s take the hot dog carts, book vendors, magazine stands and everything else crowding sidewalks and making life living hell for pedestrians and stick them there.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Speak for yourself, Luncher. Even in Midtown, I’ve never felt that the hot dog carts, etc. make my life as a pedestrian “living hell.” That honor goes to turning cars in crosswalks and cars on the sidewalk, with an honorable mention for cell phone talkers and large groups of pedestrians who won’t give me room to get by. Even there I’d say it’s an exaggeration.

    But you’re right that wider sidewalks would make things easier and potentially accommodate new sidewalk uses like the bike rental facilities.

    Do you have a source for the relative densities of “Central Paris” (what counts as Central Paris, the Ile de la Cité? Beaubourg?) vs. “Central New York City” (same question there)?

  • AB

    Like AGS above, I’m not sure about the New York vs Paris density statment, nor whether density in itself necessarily has a negative effect on the insertion of bicycle facilities. Is important to distinguish density from urban form.

    It really depends on what kind of density you are talking about, and at what scale you calculate it. If we just take population and divide by area, we get:

    Paris, all arrondissements: 24,775/km²
    Paris, 11th arrondissement: 41,053/km²
    New York, all boroughs: 10,292/km²
    New York, Manhattan: 25,849/km²

    (From Wikipedia -probably not the most reliable source in the world, but it looks like the authors got their numbers from the census so they should be accurate.)

    So Paris and Manhattan seem to be about the same density, with certain spots being more or less dense depending on the form and use (lots of offices in lower manhattan means many buildings but less residents).

    But should we really be counting the number of residents or the amount of floor space per unit of ground available The latter is called COS in French or FAR (floor-area ratio) in English, and is used in urban planning.

    In paris it is between 3.25 and 3.75, and it looks like in Manhattan averages about 5. In this sense Manhattan is more dense because there are concentrations of tall buildings. There is also the question of perceived or lived density versus calculated (actual) density. In France this is a difficult issue in the banlieue, where the orthodox-modernist towers in a park scheme leads to fairly low density neighborhoods that people generally perceive as stiflingly dense and overly-urban simply because of the form and arrangement of the buildings.

    And in the end all of this is only loosely related to how much public space is available physically and politically on the street to park bikes. With crowded sidewalks, the obvious solution would be to put the bike stations in parking spaces. In Lyon they have avoided this, which some find contradicts the message that bicyclists have as much a place on the street as cars. In Paris the

    As for the advertising space, JC Decaux is a provider of ‘urban furniture’ and I believe that the spaces are on the furniture, which means essentially bus stop shelters. However, people in Lyon say that since Decaux set up its bikes, the city is getting increasingly lax about having more and more advertising in the center.

    It is almost certain that this will not lead to massive shift in transport modes in Paris, and thus will not ‘save gas’. The population is essentially divided into motorists and non-motorists, and changing transporation policies tends to shift around the percentages between transit, walking, biking, etc without really taking anyone away from the car. Despite the impression that the city is full of cars, 30% of trips in Paris are made by transit and 45% on foot – cars are already only 20%, which goes up to 40% if we count the banlieue. The metro and trains are all electric, so these people were already not using gas, though the electricity is 70-80% nuclear – more radioactive waste, less greenhouse gasses. That said, getting more people onto bicycles is precisely what is needed to improve the safety and comfort for this mode, and thus its ability to grow in the future: motorists learn to share the road with cylists only once they have reached a certain ‘critical mass’.

    In any case, these bikes will only be in ‘central Paris’ and this idea can probably only work in the center, i.e. where the real estate is expensive and the jobs are all service-sector. So many people interpret the incresed presence of bicycles in the city as just another quality of life improvement for a small segment of the society, another way for the affluent to distinguish themselves from the poor. The first time I heard it put this way it surprised me and shocked my sensibilites a bit, but it is valid criticism.