|Vélib’ (“vélo libre” or “vélo liberté”, English: free bicycle or bicycle freedom) is a public bicycle rental programme in Paris, France. Launched on July 15, 2007, 10,000 bicycle were introduced to the city with 750 hire points each with 15 or more bikes/spaces. This number will grow to 20,000 bicycles and 1,450 automated stations.
The system is owned and operated by the city authorities and co-financed by the JCDecaux advertising corporation, in return for Paris signing over the income from a substantial tranche of on-street advertising. This model was first used in France in 1998 by Adshel (now part of Clear Channel) in Rennes.
Other such schemes are operational in other cities, using different models. In Copenhagen, a not-for profit foundation has operated a free open access bike scheme seasonally since 1995 and six German cities are served by Call a Bike which is run by Deutsche Bahn. Perhaps one of the original electronically managed systems was Bikeabout (1996) at Portsmouth University, from which many lessons were learned.
All avoid the downfall of free city bike schemes by making users liable for a big fine if bikes are not returned or kept on hire, hence the free 30 minute period to encourage bikes to circulate, and exponential increases in hire rates for longer periods, very much like City Car Clubs. Most use heavy bikes designed for very low maintenance and some like the CIOS-designed bikes in Copenhagen are rebuilt annually (some Copenhagen bikes are 12 years old). Like the London Taxi, the bikes are by their unique design less attractive to thieves than normal private cars and bikes.
Text from Wikipedia