Paris, city of lights and bicycles

15th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 15, 2007 (AFP) - Paris put the wheels in motion for more eco-friendly transport on Sunday when more than 10,000 gleaming grey bicycles went up for rental at hundreds of stations across the city.

PARIS, July 15, 2007 (AFP) - Paris put the wheels in motion for more eco-friendly transport on Sunday when more than 10,000 gleaming grey bicycles went up for rental at hundreds of stations across the city.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe unveiled the bicycle rental scheme to encourage residents and tourists to pedal their way along the Seine, past the Louvre and around the Eiffel Tower, cutting traffic and reducing pollution.

The new service called Velib will "bring to Paris lovers a bit more air, a bit more innovation and as its name suggests, a lot more liberty," Delanoe said at a ceremony to launch the bicycle rental in central Paris.

Velib, a contraction of the French words "velo" (bike) and "liberte" (freedom), is modelled on a successful scheme in the city of Lyon run by advertising giant JC Decaux.

Paris is joining such European cities as Barcelona, Geneva, Stockholm, Oslo and Vienna that offer bicycle rental to try to reduce the number of cars in big cities, improve air quality and provide a fun alternative to the metro.

Some 13,000 people in Paris have already signed up for an annual pass, allowing them to pick up a bicycle equipped with basket at one of the 750 rental stations.

City authorities hope Parisians will adopt the system en masse, and expects to have at least 200,000 regular users by year end, when the number of bikes is set to double to 20,600 at 1,451 stations.

For 28-year-old Quirin Hamp, who was among the first 50 subscribers to the new service, the bicycle rentals "are going to change the life of Parisians."

"To own a bicycle in Paris is not easy. There are always problems. This way, you always have one available in perfect condition," said Hamp. "I think it's great."

Gilbert Arigon, a 63-year-old retiree, said he had given up cycling because his last three bicycles were stolen in Paris.

"This is a nice alternative to public transport. When it's sunny, it's so much nicer to be able to take a bicycle instead of the metro and the bus," he said.

Office worker Nadine Vellut, 43, said she was eager to give the new bicycles a try despite safety concerns.

"Some motorists are going to have to learn to be respectful of cyclists," she said, adding that renting a bicycle was "a good way to avoid metro strikes."

"I think that the mindsets are going to change. The more bicycles there are in Paris, the more pressure will be exerted on city authorities to build paths and the more motorists will get used to cyclists," said Clotidle Randriamanpita, 44, a biology specialist.

Paris currently boasts 371 kilometres (231 miles) of bicycle paths, compared to 500 kilometres in London, but there are plans to add an extra 20 kilometres this year, said Delanoe.

The mayor also said he was concerned about security as thousands of cyclists prepared to take to the streets and warned that police would be tough on traffic violations.

Beyond addressing environmental concerns, the bicycle scheme is expected to contribute to the joy of exploring Paris.

"The view isn't the same on a bicycle," commented Jean-Marie Lambert, a 65-year-old retiree who has spent much time pedalling through the French capital.

"You take a slower pace, it's much nicer and you can stop whenever you like."

JC Decaux is covering the cost of the venture in exchange for exclusive rights to 1,600 hoardings across the city.

Registered bikers pay 29 euros (38 dollars) a year while occasional cyclists can use a credit card to pay a one-off daily fee of one euro or weekly charge of five euros.

Rental is free for the first half hour, rising to one euro for the second, two for the next and so on -- a progressive fee system that is designed to encourage short rents and quick turn-over.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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