Several newspapers have reported recently on Paris' new cycling scheme, Vélib.
Vélib is a scheme which offers 10,000 bicycles available to people in Paris for rental. The bikes are available 24 hours a day for about 70p for half an hour and can be collected from 750 hire points. There are plans to double the scheme's size by the end of the year.
Unlike the trial that was run in Cambridge a few years ago, where all the bikes were stole on the first day, theft is kept to a minimum by the heavy design of the bikes, secure parking facilities and a credit card payment system, enabling fines to be made directly if a bicycle is not returned.
With London Freewheel running on 23rd September, opening up many of London's streets to bicycles, the Parisian scheme is being watched closely by those at City Hall.
The FT reports that:
The mayor, who has made tackling traffic jams and pollution a central focus with his congestion charge, believes he can persuade thousands more of London’s stressed commuters to abandon overcrowded Tubes and buses in favour of greener, healthier transport.
He said on Thursday that Transport for London officials would analyse cycling projects in a number of European cities with a view to introducing a scheme to suit the needs of Londoners.
Mr Livingstone and Peter Hendy, his transport commissioner, were impressed by the Paris scheme, which they saw during a visit to the closing stages of the Tour de France.
In London there is already a similar scheme running, OYBike.
Though on a smaller scale than the Paris scheme, OYbike has not had as much success due to the limited scale of the scheme. Hopefully this will change with the Mayor's review.
“It takes no more than 15 minutes to get to any Central London terminus by bike, so there could be huge benefits for the city. I think TFL should look at what’s available as there is already a lot going on. In the case of OYbikes, it only takes ten minutes to erect one of their hiring points, so a project like that can be expanded very easily.”
However, he added that one of the main reasons that similar schemes had failed in England, for example in Southampton and Bristol, is because of a lack of co-operation from the rail networks, who have objected to providing parking space near stations.
Clearly this fact is key. We need an integrated transport system, and different companies must work together in order for a scheme like this to really take off.
Cycling uptake has been massively increased by similar schemes in cities throughout Europe, including Barcelona, Munich, Brussels, Berlin, Lyon and Vienna. Whilst LondonUnlocked does not want to see our capital reduced to the cycling chaos of Beijing, schemes such as this make sense in terms of relieving the strain on the existing transport network, and helping to reduce our carbon imprint.
This is a scheme well worth consideration.