Bicycle Freedom – Velib and the Parisian bicycle revolution

Last time I was in Paris was just over three years ago and the proposed Velib bike share system was still in construction phase. Returning to see how it has transformed the French capital has been a true highlight of my visit this time. Not only is there a bike station with up to 20 bikes on every second street corner of the capital but the system is accessible and easy to use for residents and visitors alike. It costs a Euro a day to join and then it is free to use so long as you only use the bike for 30 minutes or less. As a result Velib riders are everywhere.

It is exciting to see cycling making such a global recovery. Not only does it have huge environmental benefits but it also makes the City much more liveable.

Providing the free bikes though is only part of the reason for its success. Just as important is the investment in 100s (371km from memory) of kilometres of cycle lanes and making the vast majority of roads cycle friendly. Many Parisian streets are narrow and one way for cars but new lanes and markings have made many of them two way for bikes. All of a sudden it is cheaper, easier and more pleasurable to ride than get in a car. VELo LIBeration (Bicycle Freedom) – I think Fremantle could do with a bit of that.

PS In the Fremantle 2010/2011 budget we increased our expenditure on bicycle lanes and other infrastructure around ten fold to close to $400k so we should see some decent changes underway to make Fremantle a more bike friendly city. There is also a renewed push for bike-share in Fremantle which would be great if it can get up. Look out for a Fremantle Network event on this in the near future.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

6 Responses to Bicycle Freedom – Velib and the Parisian bicycle revolution

  1. Roger Garwood says:

    Fremantle, until a few years ago, had a very large number of regular cycle users, other than the lycra brigade. It was billed as a bicycle friendly city and, in many respects, it was. Any effort to increase the use of bikes is obviously welcome.
    The public rent a bike scheme will have to be reviewed very carefully in light of not only the scheme in
    Paris, where vandalism has been a problem to the extent the operators are considering quitting, but a close study of the Melbourne sceme should be made before Fremantle goes down their route.
    At this stage the Melbourne scheme is considered to have failed miserably. A couple of weeks ago, when I last read the stats, there had a been only 60 rentals out of (I think) 600 available bikes.
    Two theories have been been put forward. The first is that the scheme was launched in the middle of the coldest winter since the last ice age but most critics have put the failure down to the laws which make helmet use compulsory.
    Renting a bike does not rent a helmet. They are not supplied because of obvious health issues. So if a person wishes to rent a bike they need to carry a helmet with them. It will be necessary to review the helmet laws in WA before this scheme can be operated successfully in Fremantle.
    Fremantle is perfect for cycle use but mixing cyclists with motor vehicles is clearly a dangerous practice. A simple white line separating cyclists from traffic is insufficient. A casual observation of pedestrian use of pavements outside the DBD (Dead Business District) will show that there is plenty of scope to share them with cyclists. A simple upgrade of pavements in Fremantle and allowing multiple use of them, a relaxation of the helmet laws and more locking racks for cycles would quickly make Fremantle a genuine cycle friendly city. Without that the scheme for rented cycles is likely to fail.
    Copenhagen is a very good example of a cycle friendly city where about 35% of the population ride to work and the target is to increase that to 50% within a year. And helmets are optional.

  2. Renee Schipp says:

    What an inspiring idea – bring on the bike lanes and more!

  3. shona says:

    Its really exciting to see that there is all that extra funding for bikes. I’d really like to see bikes with baby seats on the back too! i live in hilton and its just that bit too far to get from home to freo and back with a baby on the back. i’d love to bus into town and use a bike to get to the beach and back. ideal. I’d also like to see some signage about the shared use of the roads, especially about looking out for kids on bikes. I’d love for my six year old to be able to safely ride with me inner city as well….

  4. BRAD!
    Thanks for putting up a blog. Smart and pro-active. I concur with Roger Garwood with respect to helmets. I’m only too happy to wear mine, and my kids bob about in their’s when they’re on the back of our bike. BUT I dare say that an idea like this one would be successful largely on the rolling impetus of spontaneous example. ie: once the cool kids do it we’ll all do it. But the cool kids don’t carry their stack hats around in case a random bike hire incident.
    Bike lane improvement is, however, a
    really good idea. I was recently on the sunshine coast and was lucky enough to do an afternoon on a hired tandem. We set off into the industrial area researching commercial upholsterers and were amazed to discover bike lanes up to two meters wide and encompassing a succession of two lane roundabouts. That was a treat. But the roads were new and it’s easier to plan ahead than to retro-fit in particular when it comes to roads.
    Many people own their own bike and really they are cheaper now than ever before. What we don’t have is a culture of motorists who are particulary aware of how to manage with bikes on the road.
    I encourage the city to launch headlong into bike lane improvements and the more bikes that show up the better the culture will perpetuate. I say don’t spare the white paint on this one…

  5. Good work on the Blog Brad, it is a far more personal way to communicate.

    I thought I would put the link for Cyclefreo here for those people who are interested. We have been watching the Melbourne bike share closely and it has recently re-ignited the helmet debate.

    Currently we are undertaking a feasibility study as well as looking at the various options for systems that are available. There is up to date information about bike share in Fremantle and general bike share information on the Cyclefreo blog and if any of your readers would like to join the conversation they are more than welcome.

    Enjoy the rest of your tour.

  6. Pingback: Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt on Paris Bike Share | Cyclefreo

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