Video: The Velib Project

More on the Vélib Project: this video shows the bicycles in action during the opening week. The Vélib was an instant success with Parisians clocking one million rides by the end of week two.

The video is presented by Eric Britton, founder of the Paris-based New Mobility Agenda, who says "I have looked at more than a thousand transportation projects around the world over the last 30 years…and this is the best project I have ever seen."

  • ddartley

    Not having to carry 30lbs in locks and chains everywhere I go would sure be nice.

  • @alex

    One of the most interesting things in this video (and something I hadn’t read about before) is that the bikes are free (gratuit) for the first 30 minutes. As Eric Britton says, this is brilliant.

    Another interesting comment was by one of the users, who wasn’t able to find a parking spot at another Vélib point because it was full. I’d read something about points being empty at train stations, but it had never occurred to me that full points are as bad a problem, perhaps even worse.

    Not carrying locks is great, but going from Vélib point to point looking for a free spot at the end of your journey would be annoying. The German DR bikes where you can leave it anywhere do seem to have an advantage.

    That said, I’m definitely looking forward to revisiting Paris and trying these out!

  • Try a folding bicycle, they exist in less than 30lbs and you also can take them on all trains or on the plane to other places … 🙂

  • g

    definitely the wave of the immediate future and at minimal cost should be doing it in nyc.

    how many bike can be bought for $1 billion?

  • Marcus

    I just used the Velibs in Paris last weekend. There are quite a few stands, so if one is full or empty you can fairly easily walk to the next (which are handily located on a map at the station).

    We did have some trouble with the not enough and too many bikes problem. It probably added 10 minutes to either end of one of our journeys. You can actually check on the little kiosks as to the availability of bikes at adjacent stations (but unless you know the number of the station you are heading to, you can’t check ahead for your destination). I noted that the turnover even at the full stations was fairly constant. When I rode to an adjacent station looking for a spot to drop off and it was full as well I pulled back up to the first one and just missed an open spot. So in the course of 5 minutes someone had taken a bike and another had dropped off.

    They were quite well used, especially after the metro had stopped running around 12:30. They also have trucks that redistribute bikes around the city. I am sure once they figure out the patterns the system will get better. Plus they intend to add another 10,000 bikes (perhaps they will add more stands than bikes to assure more open spots).

    As for the lock question, there is actually a small lock attached to the bike so you can actually stop off and lock it away from the stands. Of course then it is still burning up your time, but if it’s a short errand it works quite well.

    I used the bikes in Brussels the week before, pretty much the exact same bike (three speed, heavy (about 40 lbs), foam filled tires). But they don’t have quite as many stands, so we just picked a couple up to take a tour around the city.

    One downside, as an American I wouldn’t have been able to rent one without a French friend with me. Your credit card needs a chip in it, which is ubiquitous in Europe, but pretty much non-existent in US credit and debit cards.

  • @alex

    That’s a real bummer about the smart-card chip requirement. I looked around on the net for US banks offering smart cards, and the only one I found was American Express Blue – but they seem to have switched to an RFID chip format a few years ago, which probably wouldn’t work for the Vélib points. It seems that any US banks that are offering smart cards have switched to RFID, so there’s really no hope.

    I guess, having no French friends, I’ll have to drag my brother-in-law who lives in Berlin along on my next visit to Paris.


  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    When I was in Paris last year, the chip readers actually created a major inconvenience for me a few times. The station I was at had just gotten rid of its token booths, and the new machines required the chip. The mobile customer service people were nice enough to give me a free pass to get to Denfert-Rochereau where the booths can read US-style strips. Then, in the Bibliotheque Nationale I wanted to put some money on my copy card, but those machines only had the chip readers. What do you have to do to get one of these cards, open a Swiss bank account or something?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I poked around, and the best way I could find to get an EMV-compatible debit or credit card is to open an offshore account with Lloyds or Barclays branches in the Channel Islands. That would be expensive and make me feel like a Nigerian scammer, so I don’t think it’s worth it.

    Since they say you can use a Navigo transit pass to rent the bikes, I thought you could just buy one at a metro station (many of which take US credit cards), but apparently the Navigo is used for “identification” and you still need a credit card to pay the fee.

  • Maharbbal


    The Velib is surely fine and dandy and despite what some might say, not only tourists use them. Every morning at 8 the streets are full of people riding the grey bikes.

    The cabs are very upset ti see the number of people using bikes doubling but hey, screw them.

    The one and only problem is that Velib is limited to Paris which is a very small city (100km2) and the suburb (banlieue, about 650km2) is deprived from it. It really diminish the interest of the policy (a bit as if it was limited to Manhattan).

    As an NY metro is still more bike friendly then Paris as at least there one can get his bike to the tube.

  • DM

    My wife and I just returned from Paris a few days ago and were successful in renting the Velib (1 day pass). You only require a microchip if your CC is Visa or Mastercard. A typical North American Amex card (no microchip) will work at the Velib stations.

    As for parking, turnaround at the stations are quite quick so you really only have to wait a few mins before a stall opens up. Alternatively, we found out that when you arrive at a full station you can log into the station with your account number. It will recognize that the stalls are all full and will give you an extra 15 mins to find an alternate station with a free stall. This won’t be difficult as there are many stations around Paris and they’re constantly adding more.

    Excellent system to get around when you’re tired from all the sightseeing!

  • And here is a usefull little WAP link for your mobile phone:
    You can search for a velib spot by street name (of part of), or spot ID, and it will give you the availability of bikes and free spots… was chosen because it is easy to type on a mobile phone keyboard.

  • What do you do if you bike breaks down?

    Also, the lock on one I used today was a bit frozen. Luckily I got it to unlock. What would I have done if it was stuck on the fence I locked it to? Especially since my French is not good enough to understand the messages and instructions on their phone?

  • Mickey

    Does anybody know FOR CERTAIN if a normal American Express card will definitely work in the velib machine?? Are there any alternatives, realistic ways of obtaining a chip card or a french account?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    This NY Times article says that the machines take American Express or JCB (Japanese Credit Bureau) cards, both of which are available to NY State residents. The JCB cards have the chip on them, judging from the picture.


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