Paris' Popular Bike Program May Inspire Others

Correction Sept. 20, 2007

An earlier version of this story said it costs about $7 for an annual bike pass. It is about $7 for a weekly pass.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley test out a Velib bicycle

hide captionChicago Mayor Richard Daley tests out a Velib bicycle after leaving Paris Town Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Mehdi Fedouach/AFP/Getty Images

The much-heralded bicycle rental scheme in Paris seems to be a resounding success.

Launched in July, the "Velib" bikes were part of the Paris mayor's idea of making the city more ecologically friendly and reducing traffic. Just two months on, the self-service bicycles have clocked some 3.7 million rides and seem to be changing the way people get around the city.

Paris' streets are swarming with rental bikes. Everyone from tourists, to businessmen seems to be commuting or just enjoying the city on two wheels.

Paris got the bikes, worth around $2,000 each, in trade. Advertiser JCDecaux covers the cost of the venture in exchange for exclusive rights to 1,600 billboards across the city.

Today there are 10,000 bikes available at 750 locations across the city. Both those numbers will double by the end of this year.

To use the bikes, riders pay about $7 for a weekly pass and leave a credit card deposit of $150 in case the bike is not returned. The first half-hour is free, with a charge of about $1.50 for each 30 minutes thereafter.

It's a great way to get from point to point without having to deal with the hassle of keeping up with your bike all day. You just pick up your bike in one place and turn it in at another.

"I like it very much," says rider Daniel Breda. "I use it everyday. I'm retired, so I have all my time and I use it to visit Paris. Breda says he changes bikes within the 30-minute free period so he never pays a dime.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe was vilified by motorists for widening sidewalks and replacing car lanes with bike and bus corridors. He's been accused of trying to eradicate the automobile from the French capital. But the new bike scheme has been so successful that his poll numbers are shooting up.

No wonder Chicago's mayor Richard Daley dropped this week to go for a spin. Daley says he thinks the bikes could work in Chicago.

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