Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Velib'

July 15, marks the first birthday of Velib' in Paris. The social experiment called bike-sharing has been tremendously successful, even though it has experienced a few bumps along the way. According to The Times, Parisiens and tourists have made 27 million bicycle trips on the Velib' in the past year which is a 70% increase in bicycle traffic. When many cities talk about doubling their bike traffic in 5 - 10 years, Paris getting close to doing this in one year is phenomenal.

The Times also reports that there have been three fatalities since the beginning of the program which is tremendously unfortunate, however, according to the article, "the overall [bicycle crash] rate has declined by 20%." This is due to the law of safety in numbers.

Research from John Pucher and John Buehler of Rutgers University, titled "Making Cycling Irresistible" shows that countries with the highest bicycling rates not coincidentally have the lowest injury and fatality rates. Click on the two graphs below to enlarge them (or break out the magnifying glass).






The Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany have some of the highest percentages of trips made by bike and are therefore some of the safest places to ride a bike. (The data was collected before Velib' began.)

Velib' and other bike-sharing programs around the world are creating cities that are more bike-friendly. Without Velib', Paris would not be as bike-friendly as it is today. This is not to say that bike-sharing alone can make a city safer for bicyclists as this also requires great political will and financial commitment to create a network of safe bicycle facilities BEFORE a bike-sharing program is implemented.

So Happy Birthday, Velib'! Thank you for introducing a wacky concept that supposedly would never work to the masses. Without you, much, if not most of the work that is going on around the world on bike-sharing programs would not have been done. Cities are places for experimentation and Paris has show that this experiment works.

3 comments:

RondoneR said...

Hi! this is our first month with a little bike-sharing in Rome. only 200 bikes. But it's a REVOLUTION and romans love it!

homeostasis said...

the graphs in the article clearly point to the need for infrastructure. after a recent trip to the netherlands, it is clear that nobody wears helmets because biking is safe. people who do wear helmets are refered to as "American", in a negative way. infrastructure for bikes such as bike lights and lanes is essential to any bike sharing program. Can't wait for one to arrive in vancouver!

Mark Conaway, Pittsburgh said...

I was looking forward to utilizing Velib during a planned two-week visit to Paris from the USA. I researched the program online, and watched segment of CBS "Sunday Morning" which seemed quite comprehensive. Sadly, none of the information I gathered ahead of time prepared me enough to have a credit card with a "Smart Chip." These are ubiquitous in Europe, but rare in the USA. My credit cards were of no use, and I was unable to enjoy the Velib. Had I known ahead of time, I would have found a way to get a credit card with the Smart Chip. The Velibs are on the road everywhere in Paris, but helmets are rare among cyclists, which may account for the fatalities.