On 15 July 2007, Paris launched Vélib, a 24/7 cycle hire scheme that is changing the face of transport in Paris. By the end of 2007, a total of 20,600 cycles will be available for hire at 1451 stations around the city. In the first three months of operation there were 100,000 users daily, traveling 300,000 km, this translates to a 32,330 tCO2 reduction of emissions annually. Importantly Vélib is a viable economic story, the City of Paris will generate €34 million over the first 10 years of the project without investing a single cent. In exchange, the company which invested €80 million upfront, will pay operating costs plus €3.4 million annually to Paris for rights to advertising space, and is expected to generate around €60 million annually in advertising revenues.
What is it?
Vélib is a public private partnership between the city of Paris and SOMUPI, a company lead by the advertising group JC Decaux. The company provides a cycle hire service that is integrated into the city’s public transport plans and offers low-cost cycle hires at hundreds of locations across the city, encouraging uptake of cycling.
How does it work?
Anyone over the age of 14 can use Vélib. Cycles are available to hire 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with subscriptions available for one day (€1), week (€5) or year (€29). Users are entitled to an unlimited number of hires within the subscription period, with the first 30 minutes use free of charge. Surcharges apply if a user keeps the same bike for longer than 30 minutes.? ?At the scheme’s inception, 10,648 cycles were positioned in 750 stations around the city, with each station no more than 300 metres apart. By the end of 2007, 1451 stations will offer capacity of 20,600 cycles, with increased density of stations around major public transport nodes. This enables citizens to easily switch between the different forms of public transport in the city. It is anticipated that each bike will be used 10-15 times per day.
An extra municipal commission made up of key stakeholders, such as user groups, informs the municipality about the needs of cyclists. This group has been influential in the establishment of Vélib and other initiatives.
Careful planning has quite literally paved the way for the adoption of Vélib. As recently as 1997, there were 110 km of cycle paths in Paris. Over the next decade, Paris systematically expanded the cycle network, creating an infrastructure for mass pedal-powered transit. In 2006, 43.6 km of new cycle paths were constructed, meaning Paris offered a total of 371 km of cycle paths by day 1 of Vélib. A further 20km will be added in 2007.
Speed restriction zones, protected bus lanes and contraflow systems, together with the expanded cycle infrastructure, have contributed towards a steady rise in cycling in recent years. Innovative schemes made cycling a more prominent feature of city life - from 1998-2006, 150,000 bicycle hires were made in Paris through the “Roue Libre” convention, a guided bike scheme organized by the City and local transport authority.
Since 2001, bicycle use in Paris has risen by 48%. Vélib aims to accelerate this rise by providing low-cost affordable bike hires to the 2.15 million residents of Paris and the 27 million tourists that visit the city each year. From March 2007, construction began on Vélib stations, with around 125 completed each week up to the scheme’s launch in July.
The Vélib network will be serviced by natural 20 gas-powered maintenance vehicles, 130 electrically-assisted cycles and a special barge service with 12 stations on the River Seine. Rainwater recovery and a recycling network are amongst other innovations used to ensure Vélib is as sustainable as possible. The bikes themselves are 99% recyclable.
In addition to the development of infrastructure for Vélib, Paris has also undertaken a high-profile awareness-raising campaign to promote Vélib and cycling. Demonstration points have been stationed near the town halls of each arrondissement and road safety campaigns have been carried out.
There is a 24-hour consumer helpline as well as a detailed website that can help citizens with subscriptions, journey planning, etc. At stations, information is provided in eight languages, to maximize the appeal of the scheme to tourists.
Vélib is operated by SOMUPI, a company whose largest shareholder is JC Decaux. In return for managing the construction and operation of the scheme, SOMUPI generates revenues through advertising on the bicycles or at the different stations around the city.
The company has invested €80 million in start-up costs and will pay operating costs plus €3.4 million to Paris for rights to advertising space, meaning the city of Paris will generate €34 million over the first 10 years of the project without investing a single cent. Paris will also collect all user fares, expected to total around €30 million per year. SOMUPI expect to generate around €60 million per year in advertising revenues from Vélib.
CO2 emissions reductions
By mid-September 2007, 100,000 users made 300,000 km of journeys each day on Vélib cycles. Assuming these journeys would otherwise have been made by car, Vélib has the potential to generate savings of 32330 tCO2 every year.
Paris is now working on the extension of Vélib into its suburbs: most of the cities near Paris have expressed an interest in joining the system, as many of their inhabitants work or make purchases in Paris. Paris and the Mayor of neighbouring communities are working together to rapidly expand Vélib and meet this demand. 300 other stations will be installed outside Paris in 2008.
In the first three months of Vélib, 1.75 million subscriptions were sold for Vélib, of which around 750,000 were annual subscriptions. Over 3.7 million hires were made and over 95% of journeys lasted less than half an hour.