By Hugh Carnegy, July 26, 2012
On a bright early summer morning in Paris, close to the Champs-Élysées, a US family is setting off for a sightseeing tour using bicycles hired from the city’s Vélib’ bike-share system.
“Wait, wait, I’ve only got one pedal,” calls the mother, as she suddenly realises her mount has a serious fault.
Regular users of Vélib’ bikes will recognise the scene. Since the scheme was launched in 2007, it has been dogged by problems of theft, vandalism and the difficulty of keeping up with the results of heavy use.
But as Paris celebrates the fifth anniversary of the Vélib’ (the lib’ is short for liberty), it can rightly claim that the system has had a significant impact, providing a popular service to tourists and commuters alike and becoming a beacon to other cities seeking to boost bicycle use, reduce pressure on public transport networks and ease urban pollution.