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Happy Birthday Vélib' (Oh dear, what's wrong with you?)

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  • Eric Britton
    For full birthday article click here to http://ecoplan.org/library/hbdv.pdf Happy Birthday Vélib’ (Oh dear, what’s wrong with you?) I’ve taken the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 15, 2008
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      For full birthday article click here to http://ecoplan.org/library/hbdv.pdf


      Happy Birthday Vélib’  (Oh dear, what’s wrong with you?)


      I’ve taken the decision to organize this piece so that any of you who may wish will now have  an opportunity to comment and critique -- with a view into my eventually collecting them and using them to turn this into a more definitive and hopefully useful final piece.  But for now sit back and enjoy the ride. And then once you have made your trip, grab your pen and fire away.


      Paris, 15 July 2008


      Today is the first anniversary of the city of Paris’s highly innovative, much sung public bicycle project Vélib’, which as pretty much everyone by now knows is a contraction of the French words for bicycle (vélo) and liberty (liberté). Over this first year  hundreds of thousands of Parisians and visitors have hopped on a Vélib’ and made something  on the order of 26 million trips on the streets of this fair city, most of them paying nothing more than a modest subscription fee for what is otherwise a free trip.


      There has been a great deal of media coverage and a large number of visitors - and visiting critics. As you can well imagine in a situation where all those people coming from so many places, with such different competences  and with so many points of view, there are a wide range of views and opinions about the project, including its high points and shortcomings. These as you will see range wildly from the legitimate to the fanciful.


      The purpose of piece then is to provide you with a sort of Vélib’ FAQ, in which I have attempted to take note of the critical observations passed on through personal contacts, press articles, visiting delegations  from a number of countries, newsgroups,  blogs, e-mail commentaries, woman on the street interviews, etc., as well as daily use of the system myself. Basically then this is a kvetch or complaint list. 


      In the commentaries that follow I do not pretend to provide “scientific answers”, although in a number of cases the feedback you will find here does draw on polls, surveys and other more or less scientific compilations.  But basically my specialty is pattern recognition -- and so what you see here is my attempt to spot the overall patterns and give you what I hope is a measure reaction to these complaints, questions and claims.


      Finally, I want you to know that while I think Vélib’ is a very important project for many reasons, I myself do not wish to give the impression of defending any aspect of it. This is a new venture and one that is unique and highly innovational. It has many strong points, and things where further work and fine tuning is needed. This kind of open criticism openly discussed is what is needed both here in Paris. And possibly even more so back home if you are thinking about doing a “Vélib’’ of your own.


      Now on with the show.


      Eric Britton


      PS. By way of quick reminder, the full series of communications on this will be found at http://www.citybike.newmobility.org  -- if you click the Forum link on the top menu.


      Happy Birthday Vélib video



      Before you dig into  the following let me invite you take a few minutes to have a look at a second Happy Birthday Vélib’ piece -- this a video by the talented Elisabeth Press of StreetFilms in New York.  Press spent  a week in Paris this Spring researching and turning her film, and spent enough time riding the system to have a good understand of what works, and what works maybe a bit less well. She tells her story at http://www.streetfilms.org/archives/velib%E2%80%99/


      Thirty things that are terribly wrong with Vélib’


      Click here to http://ecoplan.org/library/hbdv.pdf

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