Urban Mobility: The Bicycle Option

14 07 2008


Paris has demonstrated how the traditional bicycle could be an interesting option for improving the urban mobility. In a project called VELIB (bicycle freedom), Paris has initiated a public bicycle rental program. This program will complete its first anniversary on July 15, this year.


In this program, there are 20,000 bicycles and 1450 automated stations, about one station every 300 m throughout the city centre. Each Vélib station is equipped with an automatic rental terminal and spots for 15-40 bicycles. Maps showing the station locations are available at all kiosks.


The rental terminals have a feature that allows to view the locations and numbers of available bicycles and free spots of the neighboring Velib stations. If a user arrives with a rented bicycle at a station without free spots, the terminal grants another 15 minutes of free rental time. Twenty vehicles are used at night to redistribute bicycles to high-demand stations.


Citizens can become a member of Velib by paying an annual subscription of 39 Euros (approximately Rs. 2600) or subscriptions can also be purchased by the day, week or year, at a price of, respectively, 1, 5, or 29 euros. With a subscription, bike rental is free for the first half hour of every individual trip; an unlimited number of such free trips can be made per day.


The system is financed by the JC Decaux (World No. 2 in outdoor advertising) advertising corporation, in return for Paris signing over the income from a substantial portion of on-street advertising.


The company paid start-up costs of about $115 million and employs the equivalent of about 285 people full time to operate the system and repair the bikes for 10 years. The city receives all revenue from the program as well as a fee of about $4.3 million a year. In return, JCDecaux receives exclusive control over 1,628 city-owned billboards; the city receives about half of that billboard space at no charge for public-interest advertising.


This system has been extremely well received by the citizens of Paris. Within one month of its launch, one million trips were clocked. Also, citizens have to often walk two stations, before they get a bicycle.


Interestingly, the world leader in outdoor advertising Clear Channel has financed a similar bicycle rental program in Washington DC. They have plans to launch similar programs in other cities in the US.


Outlook Business has reported that Pune, the number one bicycle city of India, is preparing to launch a bicycle rental program by end 2008.


Indian cities and towns are anything but bicycle friendly. Shouldn’t municipal bodies/ corporations and town planners in India do their damnedest now to find space for bicycle trails?


The power center of the outdoor media industry in India is now in the organized sector.Madison Outdoors, Street Culture, Laqshya, Times OOH, News Outdoor India, Percept OOH and JC Decaux India – are you listening?


– G. Mohan.




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