The Velib bike-sharing program in Paris has caught the attention of many urban transportation planners in the US. Let's hope they don't lose their nerve when they learn about the wanton and wholesale destruction of that Parisian bicycle fleet.
Nearly 8,000 of the Velib bikes, costing $3,500 apiece, have been stolen. Another 8,000 have been damaged to such an extent that they're unusable. That's 80% of the original 20,000 bikes the French put on the streets.
Still, according to a New York Times article, the bike-sharing program is considered a success as 50,000 to 150,000 trips are logged on the bikes everyday. This as 1,500 bikes are repaired a day, some in a workshop that floats up and down the Seine.
Without the commitment of the JCDecaux outdoor advertising agency and the Paris city government, the mistreatment of the equipment would have scuttled the bike-sharing program a long time ago. Paris pays JCDecaux $600 toward replacing every stolen or destroyed bike beyond 4% of the fleet.
So far in the US, Washington DC is the only city with an active bike-sharing program. Saint Xavier University in Chicago and UC-Irvine are two colleges that have launched a bike-sharing program.
More cities are expected to roll out a program in 2010, among them Denver, Boulder, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Boston.
In the meantime, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Chicago are all studying bike-sharing programs, according to the Bike-Sharing blog.
Let's hope these cities are prepared to deal with theft and vandalism of the bikes and not let the programs languish if repair or replacement costs begin to mount.
Above, Bixi bike-sharing system on display in Seattle in August.