‘Velib extreme’ – the Paris cycle scheme update.


BBC Article

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.

Velib extreme

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;

20,000 bicycles
1,250 stations
Cost 400 euros each to replace
7,800 “disappeared”
11,600 vandalised
1,500 daily repairs
Staff recover 20 abandoned bikes a day
Each bike travels 10,000 km a year
42 million users since launch
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10 Responses to ‘Velib extreme’ – the Paris cycle scheme update.

  1. the Grit says:

    Amazing! It would seem that Americans and the French aren’t as different as I thought 🙂

    the Grit

  2. matt says:

    Oh humans are incredibly inventive, both positively (working together for greater good) & negatively (being blatantly selfish). I’m shocked at these losses because they’re so high, not because they have happened.

    Lessons for the London scheme, if it ever happens. Surely a hefty deposit on credit card is necessary and a GPS tracker system.

  3. paducci says:

    I thought part of the plan was that a valid credit card number is kept on file and linked to your rental pass/ticket/card/account? Then theoretically if the bike doesn’t make it back, Velib knows who took which bike, and then Velib can charge/investigate accordingly.

    However, with the shabby cable locks (the fixed rental points seem pretty solid) the bikes are probably getting stolen from other riders who then would protest having to pay the fee (~150 EUR I believe)

  4. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    Over here the credit card used to get the bike unlocked would probably be stolen. Our criminals are amazingly inventive. On the other hand, possibly something like finger print recognition would work?

    the Grit

  5. matt says:


    I believe you’re correct in your analysis of the problem; that there is a credit card deposit system but that the customer’s bikes are getting stolen from them.

    I wonder how good the insurance policy is that covers this scheme. With all those bikes going missing the premium must be getting prohibitively expensive, which is probably why the government has had to step in with taxpayer’s money to replace some bikes.

    Are better bike locks the answer? Maybe a key code (given at hire) can be entered when parking up a bike, that sends a bolt lock through the back wheel (the bolt lock being welded to the bike frame) although normal bike lock still needs to be used as well.

    Bolt lock may stop joy riders such as on that video above. I wonder if those idiots have been prosecuted, having shown their faces to the world!

  6. greenteker says:

    Someone is trying to replicate similar model in Mumbai in India. Looks like a model with too many problems…

  7. keithsc says:

    Such a great idea and it’s so sad it isn’t working. Or is it? The statistics sound bad yet if they have had 42 million users since the launch then each bike has on average been used 2,000 times before it’s replaced. I’m not sure that I’ll use my bike that much before I replace/retire it.

  8. Pingback: Parisian Bike Rental Scheme’s Future in Doubt - PSFK.com

  9. Wmjm says:

    I was in Rennes and Paris in August 2009. A credit card was required to place about half the value on reserve for velib if I would have not returned the bike. Unfortunately the machines would not accept my American Mastercard or bank debit card.

    NOTE: if the Renter essentially signs a contract promising to either return the bike in working condition or else forfeit the deposit sum, then how can the velib system model be so bad? If the company could not support the business with such a partial deposit, then they just have to require more to be held.

    I don’t see why it couldn’t work in essentially the same mode it is currently operating under…

  10. matt says:

    Oh sure, a deposit system has to be in place to try and minimise this selfishness. But low lifes have ways around this. But as paducci says in his comment above, the bikes are probably being nicked from hirers of these bikes.

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