Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Free Biking in Paris

Free Biking in Paris. May is Bike Month NYC, according to Transportation Alternatives, so it's a good time to report on a trip up and down the Seine with my wife Alice using the Velib' ("Velo-libre" or "free bike") system. This is the less-than-a-year-old brainchild of the socialist Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe. Paris has more than 230 miles of well-marked cycling lanes and the Velib' has been a big success with more than 20 million trips as of this month, or 70,000 trips per day. At this pace, by the first anniversary on the day after Bastille Day, July 15, the Velib' will have attracted an amazing 25 million trips. To add our two more trips to the counter, we first buy a Velib' map, sold at any newsstand. The Google map of Paris has its green arrow pointed exactly to where we decide to join the Seine from the north. We decide to start with the bicycle route on the north (right) bank of the Seine headed east, ride this until the Seine-side bicycle path ends (it goes north), then cross over the Seine and take the bicycle path west on the south (left) bank to the Branly Museum. Our trip has some lessons for New York City and other cities! A friend of mine from Lyons says the free-bike movement started there but Amsterdam had the white bikes years ago and may have been first. The problem in Amsterdam is that the bikes got stolen and were just repainted. Harder to do with the easily identifiable Paris bikes, and anyway they get your credit card and the locks are pretty secure. Washington, DC is experimenting with a much smaller program than the one in Paris. To continue, click here (map and photos included).