Paris bike rental scheme shifts gears after vandalism

Paris signed a new deal with the firm running its bike rental scheme Monday after thieves and vandals forced the city to replace the entire 20,000-strong fleet within just two years.

Thousands of gleaming grey bicycles were rolled out in July 2007 to encourage Parisians and the millions of tourists who visit each year to pedal their way along the Seine, past the Louvre and around the Eiffel Tower.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe has touted the "Velib" cheaper bike rental as a way to cut down on car use, reduce pollution and offer an alternative to crowded metro trains in the French capital.

But advertising giant JCDecaux, which runs the hugely successful city-wide scheme, was forced to replace 16,000 bicycles after they were returned to rental stations with twisted handlebars, torn baskets and crushed wheels.

Some were covered in rust after being fished out of the Seine.

Another 8,000 have disappeared, with some of the easily recognizable grey bicycles spotted on the streets of eastern European cities.

The Paris city council agreed at a meeting to compensate JCDecaux and the firm will carry out studies to address the vandalism problem.

"It's quite simple. The entire fleet of 20,000 Velib bikes has been replaced at least once," Albert Asseraf, a director general at JCDecaux, told AFP.

Asseraf said the bicycles are often damaged when first-time users fail to properly lock them in the stands, creating an opportunity for theft or other malice.

Despite four public campaigns by the city and improvements to the bike stands, the vandalism has continued, resulting in losses of 8.5 million euros (12.7 million dollars) for JCDecaux.

"Why are people vandalising our bikes? I think that's something that can only be measured through studies," he said.

"It's part of the broader issue of vandalism, targeting cars, painting graffiti on walls, damaging public buildings."

Under the terms of the deal approved Monday, the city will pay up to 25 percent of the replacement cost of the bicycles, up from between four and 20 percent previously.

Also the city gave JCDecaux a larger stake in plans to expand the service, with the company to get 50 percent of all revenues beyond 17.5 million euros.

In March, the scheme was extended to nearby suburbs and the list of rental stands keeps growing.

The fate of the Velib bicycles has been a topic of debate for the past months with some officials saying the experience raises questions about how Parisians treat public property.

"There is absolutely no respect for these bicycles," lamented Guillaume Pepy, president of the SNCF rail operator. "They are collectively owned and so they are the target of public resentment."

JCDecaux entered into a partnership with Paris city hall to launch Velib - a contraction of the French words "Velo" (bike) and "Liberte" (Freedom) - at a time when such bike schemes were gaining popularity in big cities worldwide.

The advertising company agreed to cover the full cost of the venture in exchange for exclusive rights to 1,600 publicity boards across the city.

A string of European cities such as Barcelona, Geneva and Stockholm offer bicycle rentals but the Paris scheme is by far the most extensive.

Dozens of foreign delegations have come to Paris over the past two years to take stock of its "Velib" experience.

JCDecaux has exported the scheme to Brisbane in Australia and is about to launch a similar plan in Toyama, Japan, in March.

Paris bikers can subscribe to the service online, paying a base fee of 29 euros 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 rentals and quick turn-over.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam