As reported in French newspaper, Les Echos, and Thomson Financial, Clear Channel's French subsidiary has sued the City of Paris and JCDecaux calling its practices anti-competitive. Paris has suggested expanding Velib' to its suburbs with 300 stations and 4,500 bikes, for a cost of about $10 million per year. Clear Channel's concern is that the expansion of the bike-sharing program would put them at a disadvantage because JCDecaux's Velib' is already in-use in the region. So is the problem anti-competitive or Velib' is too successful? This may be first lawsuit of its kind and undoubtedly won't be the last.
Once an advertising company provides a successful bike-sharing program in the core of a region, regardless of the region, they will have a de facto monopoly on that region. Folks from the region will come to associate the name of the bike-sharing program with the concept itself and request its expansion into their jurisdictions. As a public policy it makes most sense to have the bike-sharing network all of the same technology, rather than localized technologies that are incompatible. So there will be a political push for this as well. It would be foolish to have a small program run by Clear Channel in the Paris suburbs with a highly successful JCDecaux program in the city.
I see this as another reason governments should demand that bike-sharing be provided as a singular service, unbundled from the other services any company, especially advertisers, such as Clear Channel and JCDecaux, provide. (Barcelona did and got Clear Channel to provide Bicing. JCDecaux provides the advertising.) The two services are totally unrelated and should remain so. Advertisers are good at just that and should remain focused. Bike-sharing is a transit service and, I believe, should be provided by an organization that can keep this as their focus. There are examples of advertisers adeptly running bike-sharing programs, however, there shouldn't be any question in the future about their priority and therefore separating advertising from bike-sharing would ensure this.