Ouch! And so well said!
These few telling words from Stacy Thompson, director of the Livable Streets Alliance, a transportation advocacy group watching out for the public interest in Boston Massachusetts — in the context of a critical commentary on the dockless bike wars that are presently ravaging cities and challenging governments around the world.
And this of course is what World Streets is supposed to be all about: The Politics of Transport in Cities. Satcy has put our challenge into a nutshell.
Happier days for Vélib’ in Paris
JCDecaux, which operated the Paris Vélib ‘self-service bicycle service for ten years before losing the market to Smovengo last year, said on March 8 that its successor was not up to the challenge of the delays accumulated in its launch.
The Smovengo consortium chosen last spring by the Autolib ‘Vélib’ Métropole union at the expense of JCDecaux, had promised to install 1,400 new stations (or 20,000 Vélib) by March 31st. According to the latest figures, only 345 stations were in service, making this schedule unreachable. Faced with the controversy and anger of Vélib’ users, the City of Paris announced that it was sending municipal staff to supervise the deployment and work of the provider, a rare decision
Vélib’ station in Paris in happier days – 2008
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.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
– William Butler Yeats
World Streets has from the beginning been intended to serve as a journal of record of the difficult world wide transition to sustainable transport, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. And as a lively world-wide partner, free resource and multi-faceted toolkit for concerned citizens and decision makers as they try to sort their way through the complexity and contradictions of bringing sustainable transport to our cities and their hard to serve hinterlands. Many of our seven thousand-plus signed-in readers will for the most part keep their eye on the latest articles as they appear.
But there are others — students, educators, researchers, consultants, those working in concerned government agencies, transporters and other suppliers to the sector, city planners, activists, civil society, journalists, citizens looking for international background on specific topics — who need to have quick access to what the site has to offer. Which, it turns out, is quite a lot. Let’s have a look.
World Streets is proposing to support the nomination of the prolific Dutch environmentalist, industrial designer, provocateur Ludd Schimmelpennink for a major international environmental award for his life-time contributions to sustainable development, sustainable cities and sustainable lives. (Our timetable for this submittal gives us one week from today, 10 November, to finalise the nomination.)
We invite the readers of World Streets to have a look and, if you will, get back to us with your suggestions to (a) edit, expand and improve the nomination whose draft follows. And once you have had a look and thought about it, you are invited to join us in supporting this unusual nomination. If so, it would be great to have your name, position and organisation( if any), city and country. And should you wish to add some brief remarks (less than 50 words max.), please do and our earnest editor will do his best.
In the late spring of 2012 the diligent editor of World Streets was visited by a young Canadian writer who announced that he was working on a book about “Happy Cities”, and in this context wanted to talk about my experience in and thoughts on the happiness arena, with particular attention to issues concerning ordinary people, people like Thee and Me, in our day-to-day lives: issues of mobility and public space, needs meet and unmet, individualism and community, time and distance, behavior and equity, economy and democracy . . . in Paris and around the world. Why not? What the hell, maybe I will learn something from him.
Charles Montgomery’s merciless interrogation lasted a full day,followed by extensive correspondence over the course of the next year. Toward the end of 2013 his book “Happy City: Transforming Our Lives through Urban Design” was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York. One year later the 368 page volume has just appeared in an affordable paperback edition, and is now widely available in bookshops, and of course the Internet. (PS. Support your local bookshop, it is a happier experience!) We thank the author and the publisher for permission to share the following extracts with our readers to celebrate the low-cost editions now available.