lundi, avril 07, 2008

Vélib' - free service bicycles

It has been about a year since the city hall of Paris launched an innovative project, Vélib'. Dotted all over Paris, you will find a row of identical bicycles with a kiosk.

This is how it works. You register yourself at the kiosk. It cost 1€ a day or 29€ for a whole year usage. After that, you choose the bicycle you want; detach it from its stand and ride. The first 30 mins of usage is free. For every extra 30 mins used, an euro or more is charged. The whole idea is not to hog onto the bicycle to visit around Paris on two wheels. The mayor of Paris is encouraging people to cycle in Paris to get from one place to another. If your destination takes more than 30mins, you can dispose the bicycle half way at a station; wait for 15 minutes before getting the bicycle and continue your journey. It is free. For a day usage, you just pay 1€ for as many 30mins ride as you like.
Seb and I finally tried it yesterday. After church, we were supposed to meet Anton at Saint Paul's station for lunch. We decided to walk from Concorde to Saint Paul as we were 45minutes in advance. Taking Metro would take us only 10mins. After 15mins of walk, we realised at the pace we were going, we would be late. It was further than I thought. We passed by a Vélib' station and I suggested to Seb to give it a go. The weather was sunny and it beats taking the underground. We went to the kiosk and using our transport cards, booked ourselves each a bicycle. If you have no transport card, you could use your credit card. This is in case you do not return the bicycle, 150€ will be withdrew.

As it was a Sunday, there were not many cars and it was really nice to cycle in Paris. In 25mins time, we reached Saint Paul's station but we could not parked our bicycles as there was no free stand available. As time was running out, we checked at the kiosk the next nearest Vélib' station and cycled to Pont Marie which was 2 minutes away. Fortunately, there were free stands at that station and we were able to park back our bicycles before the 30 mins run out.

Seb and I agreed that the bicycles were too heavy. Seb found the bicycle too small for him and he was not comfortable on it. But we enjoyed the ride in Paris so much that Seb was thinking of getting a bicycle now. When I spoke with my colleague this morning, he explained to me that we could have registered ourselves at the Saint Paul's station for 15 mins of grace. We could then wait for someone to pick up two bicycles and liberate two stands for us.

The cycling culture in Paris can never be compared with that of Delft, Netherlans. Still, I find that it is a good start to a healthier living and less polluting environment. I leave you with this amazing bicycles park at Delft train station.

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