Earlier this month we found out that Montreal plans to be the first city in North America to establish a wide-scale bike-sharing program. The first bikes will hit the streets next fall; by 2009, you should be able to rent one of 2,400 bikes, and for about $1 per half-hour, from 300 stations scattered around town.
“The idea is to encourage Montrealers and tourists to use the public bicycles instead of cars for short, inner-city trips. Users will be able to pick up a bike at one station, use it, then drop it off at any station of their choice,” explains Michelle Lalonde in the Gazette. The whole scheme will be managed by Stationnement Montréal, the city’s parking authority, using automatic machines to regulate the self-serve bike-sharing stations. The initial cost is expected to be $15 million, but the system is eventually expected to pay for itself.
As usual, Paris is Montreal’s source of inspiration. This past summer, the French metropolis launched a massive bike-sharing program, known as Vélib’, with 10,000 bikes available at 750 stations. According to the Gazette, “demand has been so strong that the city is adding 10,600 bikes and aims to have 1,451 bike stations in place by the end of 2007.” In order to access the bikes, Parisians can buy a yearly pass, a weekly pass or a one-time pass. Payment is made by credit card; to avoid bike theft, each user is charged a €150 deposit that is refunded when they return their bike.
By all accounts, Vélib’ is a roaring success. Shortly after its launch, Paris’ deputy mayor for transport, Denis Baupin, estimated that six trips were made on each bike every day. That’s 60,000 trips per day — about the same as the 80 Park Avenue bus.
“Vélib is a brilliant way to get around and to discover Paris,” raves the normally aloof Economist. “The overall experience was definitely worth it; I got jealous glares from men in their cars and admiring gazes from women doing their shopping. The going rate is €1 per half hour, which seems more reasonable and more environmentally friendly than the metro or a taxi.”
So, bike-sharing works in Paris — but what about here? Tell us what you think.