Happy Birthday Vélib' (Oh dear, what's wrong with you?)
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.
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.
Click here to http://ecoplan.org/library/hbdv.pdf