When former Paris Mayor Delanoë launched the Vélib’ bike sharing scheme in 2007, people laughed. His aim was to reduce traffic in the French capital and give the Parisians more liberty in transportation. Hence the name velib’: from the French words Vélo (bike) and Liberté (liberty). Many people thought the scheme would never work, but after a difficult start, with bikes being stolen or destroyed, it turned out to be a success. After the first five years, 138 million people had used the 23,000 rental bicycles and 31 communities on the outskirts of Paris had joined Vélib’.
(Read: the bicycles revolution in Paris five years later)
Delanoë ‘is a living liveable city legend’ says the Copenhagenize blog. And we all love Delanoë’s quote: “The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time”
Luckily Paris’ new mayor, socialist Anne Hidalgo, also believes firmly in the importance of bikes and other solutions to calm down traffic. She introduced P’tit Vélib’, little bikes added to the bike sharing programme for kids, she wants to double the length of bike lanes, and make more 30 km/h zones in the city.
I just went to Paris for a week, visiting my parents in law for a lovely family holiday. What did I see? Many people using Vélib’s, but also many people on their own bike. The most noticeable, though somehow quite expectable, thing is that Paris cycles chic! We knew that Parisians have style, and we are happy to see that they don’t change their style while cycling. Business man cycling in suits, ladies with high heels and hipsters with skinny jeans. That is how it should be!
To be honest, there is still a lot of car traffic in Paris. There are many places where cycle lanes suddenly stop and roundabouts where even I, as an experienced urban cyclist, didn’t dare to ride. But, thanks to a large extend to Paris’ current and former Mayor, it is going in the right direction. So keep up the good work Parisians and get on your vélo!
- Copenhagenize: http://www.copenhagenize.com/2014/02/copenhagenize-reviews-agenda-for-next.html
- International Press Service: http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/the-bicycle-revolution-in-paris-five-years-later/
- European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/europeangreencapital/bike-rental-scheme-for-kids/