Velib is a unique bicycle rental program in Paris that was started in 2007 based on the successful model of Lyon’s Vélo’v. The entire system across the city is automated. In the first year as many as 750 automated rental stations were opened, and this was increased to 1,450 the next year. The objective was that the distance between two stations would never be more than 300 meters. It can be argued that Velib is the biggest bicycle rental service in the world.
The Velib program started with 7,000 bicycles, but the authorities added more soon due to popular demand, and the figure has gone up to 20,600 bicycles. It was started to provide an alternative means of transportation for those who use the city’s public transportation system. Velib is also part of Paris’ green initiative to reduce pollution.
Here is a map showing the many Velib stations across Paris. Each station has stands where dozens of bicycles can stand at any time.
Renting the Bicycles
It is necessary to subscribe to the system to use these bicycles. Subscriptions start at just €1 for 30 minutes (plenty of time to get to most parts of Paris), €29 for a year, or €5 for a week. The week and year-long subscriptions allow the user an unlimited number of rentals within that time period.
For every individual trip, the first half hour is free. For each subsequent 30 minutes of use, the rental charge is between €1 and €4. So, if you are within a 30 minute ride from your destination, you could actually end up paying nothing more than the subscription.
As a tourist you can rent one of these using your credit card. For €1 you will get your Velib velo for 30 minutes. A €150 euro security deposit is taken on your credit card that will be returned the moment your bicycle is docked back into a Velib station.
Velib provides a useful (and free) app which helps you find the nearest station and the number of bicycles available at each one. However, the map is online, meaning you have to have a WiFi or 3G connection in order to use it. Tourists without international calling plans probably won’t find much use for this as they won’t have internet access as they stroll about town. But locals using the Velib network certainly will.
Problems Faced By Velib
Velib has faced certain problems too, particularly because of theft and vandalism. Of the 7,000 bicycles that were introduced in the first year, as many as 3,000 ended up being stolen, and needed to be replaced. And of the 20,600 bicycles that were introduced in the next year, as many as 16,000 were vandalized or stolen. Velib bicycles have been spotted as far away as North Africa and Eastern Europe.