01 February, 2007

Free Bicycles in Paris and Other Cities


This piece in of my favorite newspapers, The Guardian, caught my eye:

The City of Light wants to soon become a city of bicycles. Paris City Hall announced it has selected French outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux SA to operate a new free bicycle service in the capital.

Joining other European cities like the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, Paris wants to make thousands of bikes available for free to commuters, strollers and tourists - in part to help cut down on pollution.

JCDecaux's Somupi unit is to have some 14,100 bikes deployed in the capital by this summer.

Other European cities including Lyon, Brussels, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin also operate what they call "white bicycle" (or sometimes "yellow" bicycle) programs. Here in the States they are often termed "community bike programs".

We lived just outside the waterfront village of Galesville in Maryland for 11 years where the few hundred residents operated a simple community bike program. Bikes were donated or bought cheaply at yard sales, and a big sign declaring them to be community bikes was affixed to each one. Whenever you needed a bike you simply got on one and rode away. When you'd finished your errand you left the bike someplace conspicuous for someone else to use. The few cyclists in town would occasionally perform a bit of maintenance and that's all there was to it.

Here is a list of other US communities that operate free bike programs. The project seems particularly well organized in Austin. Not all such programs are successful though, sometimes theft or vandalism are a problem. Nonetheless they have been proven to work, and work well.

The White bikes program has to be one of the best ideas to come along in decades. It saves gas, cuts down on pollution, is inexpensive, and improves the lives of everyone involved. Why aren't more local governments starting such programs?

BTW, I love those red fenders.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

You might find this interesting... Bike!Bike! conference of nonprofit bike collectives...

Joel said...

JCDecaux (a for profit company) has successfully intiated bus shelter programs in several US cities, including Chicago.

JCD provides the shelters and keeps them up. They keep most of the money from advertisements on the shelters.

I imagine JCD will put advertisements on the bikes. If it means a bike free on the occasional times I need it and do not have my own handy, I could live with being a moving bill board now and then.

Anonymous said...

they've tried to do this on my campus with yellow bikes. . . of course, the bikes all disappeared pretty quickly. Bikes disappear quickly in Amsterdam too, free or not so free. Then you can get a hot one for 20 euros.

mw

Anonymous said...

A retarded citizen tried to start something like that in Florida. It was Homeland Securities only accomplishment for $50B and counting. They tracked him for months. Finally they said he won some bogus prize and go to Tampa airport for free ride to claim prize. Then the 'non-fossil fuel' terrorist got it in the back.

Anonymous said...

give that shooter a medal!

Joel said...

MW:

Are people buying these bikes using them for their intended purpose or melting them for scrap?

Even if someone painted the over the white and ads, they have a fairly unique look. It should be fairly easy to avoid parts swapping. Just use older components and seldom used tire sizes.

There will always be bad apples (see the posts above mine). They can be managed if the will is there.

Anonymous said...

I lived in the Netherlands for a few years and never once saw a free bike in Amsterdam. I was under the impression that they canned the program after most of the bikes were stolen.

I've heard that there have been some programs in various cities that put some kind of transmitter in the bike/requires a subscription like a library card to unlock the bike but that seems prohibitively expensive. Anyone know more about this?

neil m berg said...

My daughter was involved in a Yellow Bike program in Minneapolis. They all vanished in a couple of weeks. They disappeared faster than they could replace them.

Anonymous said...

Actually, theft may have been cheaper than 'Jughead' maintenance on them. No one will take care of them unless they own them, or steal them, lol.

A hard program based on motivational aspects.

Joel said...

People take care of public parks.

The National Park Service has a very popular program where people volunteer time to do hard work for upkeep. There are similar state and local programs througout Captalist US.

As for theft, again I think it could be discouraged by using bland looking mixte bikes with uncommon components sizes.

Unique looking bikes would be easy for police to spot. Make stealing public property a felony, and only an idiot would take the risk. Especially if there is no aftermarket for the parts.

Scrap metal value is another issue. But then, no one is suggesting we discontinue using using manhole covers and sewer grates. (which are stolen for scrap metal)

neil m berg said...

I think most of the theft is probably riding the bike to a destination and leaving it in a garage or just pitching it. Every Spring volunteer groups walk the lakeshores here(in the water)and fish a incredible number of bikes out of the water. Also anything that costs money to dispose of - tires, appliances, waterheaters, etc. 5% of people seem to be thieves or pigs.

nv said...

anon -
"No one will take care of them unless they own them, or steal them, lol."

This isn't true. I would very happily volunteer my time to wrench on bikes in a program such as this. I may be a Jughead but I can keep a bike in working order.
nv

Anonymous said...

Nv:

That is the spirit I mentioned above.

I think good bike loving people such as yourself would step up to keep the bikes working.

Neil raises a more troubling point though. Most US communities sprawl. There are plenty of places a lazy user could just ditch a bike.

Keeping the bikes where users or volunteer repair people could find them would take work.

I still think the idea is feasible. Just need to think about Neil's angle.

Joel said...

Oops. Forgot to put Joel in the name in the 13th post.

Anonymous said...

No, I wasn't talking about volunter mechanics, but user jughead mechanics. I didn't know how it would be possible logistically. Either it has to be near home, or they take it home and use it.

If you are talking about bikes just floating around, and whoever jumps on them,lol. Come on. So logistics would be a concern, overnight use at home, and inventory accoutability. It would have to be checked out like Library books STRICT on overdue fees. Or the middle school crack heads would empty the racks before evening never to return. YOU WOULD HAVE TO HAVE VALID DRIVER LICENSE NUMBER. THERFORE A FULL TIME PERSON ALWAYS ON DUTY TO RECEIVE AND DISTRIBUTE DURING OPERATING HOURS. No other way. Too touchy feely for the real world.

Down on Bradenton/Sarasota beaches, guys rent them out. My LBS rents them out. But they keep their license or credit card or something.

Sounds like a George Bush plan: give charity while him and Cheney steal our Social Security of Billions of dollars bombing someone, anyone, preferably with oil rights under land. Well, if the bikes were pouring out gas behind them anyway.

Anonymous said...

what does 'lol' mean? I have been seeing it here and there, but it doesn't seem like the sort of thing I can go to the Oxford Reference Dictionary on the shelf and look up.
M Burdge

Anonymous said...

lol= laugh out loud

Anonymous said...

Thanks.
I guess I don't use the phrase 'laugh out loud' enough to warrant abbreviating it.
mb

Anonymous said...

lol, is used commonly to either denote humor so someone doesn't get their panties in a bind, OR to denote an exclamation point of unbelievable proportions.

Its quite efficient used with various readers. Most readable posts have either one point of exclamation or humor per post. Of course like the exclamation point, it is easy to over use more than once: or to over emphasize the world in all caps.

Its the evoloution of world wide web media. It takes some matriculation to better understand using like first using exclamation points, except lol is more variable and supports better communication to wider audiences.

Anonymous said...

re: lol. Perhaps, but I will leave it to others to use. If someone misses my joke, it is only because it was either not funny or I wrote poorly. Exclamation points--or any replacement like lol should probably be used sparingly in any case.
I am not one of those people to write letters to the paper because someone used 'disinterested' wrongly (i.e., not interested instead of impartial); if people begin to mean and understand 'disinterested' to mean 'not interested' then that is what it now means. But 'lol' seems like the linguistic equivalent of a pre-peeled yet shrink wrapped banana.
mburdge

Anonymous said...

Sarcasm is one of the most efficient communication means available, but without seeing a smile or amiable demeanor on the author's face, it is easy to offend wider audiences. Writing sarcam 'Properly' where understood is quite laborious.

But I hear what you are saying, lol.

Anonymous said...

I think the concept is that it will be a marketing system. European cities are strict on where advertising hoardings and billboards, and since cars and taxis often can't access the centre there are lots of people walking who would see the adverts going by on a slow- moving bike. A number of similar things already exist, like the velotaxi concept, but it's good to see another idea cropping up. Hope it comes to Stuttgart!

Andy

Andy in Germany said...

I think the concept is that it will be a marketing system. European cities are strict on where advertising hoardings and billboards, and since cars and taxis often can't access the centre there are lots of people walking who would see the adverts going by on a slow- moving bike. A number of similar things already exist, like the velotaxi concept, but it's good to see another idea cropping up. Hope it comes to Stuttgart!

Andy

Anonymous said...

We had a "yellow bike" program here in Portland, OR, too (donated bikes spray-painted yellow). As other posters have mentioned, they disappeared into the ether pretty rapidly. I saw some teenagers repeatedly flinging one down a flight of stairs in a park... sad. It really is an appealing idea (although somewhat impractical, as you can never COUNT on a bike being available to expedite your travels -- you might even come out of the grocery store or doctor's office or whatever to find someone has trundled off on the bike you rode over there!).