JCDecaux, the company that runs the cycle hire scheme, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.
Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen. They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll.
The original contract gave the advertising company a 10-year licence to exploit 1,600 city-wide billboards in return for running the scheme, plus a share in the revenue, estimated at 20m euros for the first year of operation.
City hall has recently agreed to pay towards the costs of replacing the stolen or trashed bicycles but is refusing to bail out the company.
Remi Pheulpin, JCDecaux’s director general, says the current contract is unsustainable. “It’s simple. All the receipts go to the city. All the expenses are ours,” he said.
The costs, he said, were “so high that a private business cannot handle it alone, espcially as it’s a problem of public order. If we want the velib set-up to keep going, we’ll have to change the business model,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.
Hung from lamp posts, dumped in the River Seine, torched and broken into pieces, maintaining the network is proving expensive. Some have turned up in eastern Europe and Africa, according to press reports.
Since the scheme’s launch, nearly all the original bicycles have been replaced at a cost of 400 euros ($519, £351) each.
The Velib bikes – the name is a contraction of velo (cycle) and liberte (freedom) – have also fallen victim to a craze known as “velib extreme”.
Various videos have appeared on YouTube showing riders taking the bikes down the steps in Montmartre, into metro stations and being tested on BMX courses. See Velib Extreme video (idiots!).
Some facts from Velib;