Vélib’ was for ten years an exemplary large-scale public bicycle sharing system in Paris, France. Launched on 15 July 2007, the system encompassed around 14,500 bicycles and 1,230 bicycle stations, conveniently located across Paris and in some surrounding municipalities, with an average daily ridership topping 100,000 in 2017. (Ridership, other key data to be updated.) The name Vélib’ is a portmanteau of the French words vélo (English: “bicycle”) and liberté (“freedom”).
After ten years of sensational performance offering handy and almost free bikes to hundreds of thousands of satisfied Parisians and visitors every day, the project suddenly went terribly wrong as it was preparing to go into a new phase, and has in the last months crashed out of existence. As a result Paris and the world are poorer places
Why did this happen? What are the losses? Were they inevitable? And what are the lessons to be learned? Yes of course in Paris for the future of shared bikes there, but also in towns and cities around the world who might wish to learn these lessons for their own shared bicycle initiatives.
We here at World Streets, who have been following and riding Vélib’s (and Vélo’v’s) literally every day since opening day in Paris on 15 July 2007, have decided to have a look-in on this unexpected story — and in the coming months see what happens if we can share our observations and findings with our international readers and others who may care to drop in here to see if they can find useful information and views on this strange and most unexpected turn of events. Let’s get started.