Vélib Bike Rental Service

The New York Times covers a Parisian bike-share program known as Vélib and discusses the problems of vandalism and theft encountered since its launch. Of the 15,000 bicycles originally disbursed for the program, more than half have disappeared, presumed to be stolen.

Update: There’s some more commentary over at Good, suggesting that the company charged with the maintenance of the service has been exaggerating the problems as a PR maneuver in order to skirt responsibility for upkeep.

Either way, one lesson to be learned here for other bike sharing programs is that the entity running the system shouldn’t just be custodians of the bikes, they should own them, otherwise they have an incentive to scapegoat mischievous kids when bikes get damaged or stolen.

There’s some interesting first-hand discussion in the comments and debate about the merits of the program.

[via Good]

  1. We tried this when we were in Paris in Dec 2008 and in principle its a good system. We did experience some difficulty in using the kiosk to hire the bike which caused some initial frustration. But once you hire the bike, its easy enough to find stations around central Paris and it also gives you time to find another station if a station is full.

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