Already the world’s largest bike-sharing scheme, growing to a million bikes in one year will be a large task for the city and its bike-sharing vendor, JCDecaux, to complete. Finding new locations for stations will require the removal of nearly 400,000 parking spaces, or roughly three quarters of the city’s public parking, and in some cases historic buildings will need to be demolished. The dire plans for one such building has ruffled the feathers of many Parisians - this building is Notre Dame.
“It is a very old building and the flying buttresses are crumbling anyway,” said Agathe Rousseau, Paris’s bike-sharing program manager. “There is much wasted space on the Notre Dame grounds that is dedicated to tourist buses and taxis and we believe would be better used for bike-sharing stations. Besides, there are lots of other monuments for tourists and what better way to visit them than by Velib’,” she said. “It’s not like we’re taking down the Eiffel Tower.”
Even with the loss of a famous structure, some Parisians, like Paul-Henri Godot, a 30-something fan of bike-sharing, believes that Velib’ can do no wrong. “Last week my wife and I were coming home from the hospital and decided instead of calling our daughter Amélie, we shall call her Amélib’,” said Godot. Their daughter is 9 years old. This level of high praise is becoming more commonplace with the naming and renaming of children in hipster neighborhoods with the words “velo” and “liberte’ ” in their more common names.
The Automobile Club of France has threatened to sue the Paris government for this bold move of removing a large quantity of parking spaces and Mayor Delanoë’s plan to convert 50% of the city’s major north-south and east-west streets from motorized carriageways to bicycle boulevards, or streets designed with a priority for bicyclists. “[The Club] would sue,” exclaimed Automobile Club chief, Michel Garreau, “but I can smell the bread from the corner bakery for the first time since I was a boy without all of the car pollution, so maybe we will not. But don’t quote me. I’ll lose my job if you do.”
Before Velib’, about 1% of trips made in Paris were done so by bicycle. This has increased to 10% by the end of 2007 and analysts predict will reach 53% once all million bike-sharing bicycles are on the street making 27.3 million trips per day. This would surely make Paris the most bike-friendly city in Europe and the world. Parisians are elated by this possibility, however, the citizens of Copenhagen and Amsterdam which are traditionally Europe’s most bike-friendly large cities are revolting.
“Who does Paris think he is?,” questioned Henning Bek of Copenhagen. “We have fought hard for the title of Bike Capital of Europe since the 1970’s. Paris didn’t even know what a bike was a year ago, so how dare it steal the title from us!,” said Bek.
Regardless whether Paris wins this new title or not, it’s April Fools Day! Enjoy! And go for a bike ride.