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Success Velib Tempered by Costs of Breakdowns

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PARIS, France – Since the introduction of the bike rental system last year in the French capital the Velibs have made 26 million trips. In their fight against traffic congestion and air-pollution the Paris city council and outdoor advertiser JCDecaux created a successful rental system that is regarded as the showcase to get more people biking. In its first year Velib had

Success Velib Tempered by Costs of Breakdowns

PARIS, France – Since the introduction of the bike rental system last year in the French capital the Vélib’s have made 26 million trips. In their fight against traffic congestion and air-pollution the Paris city council and outdoor advertiser JCDecaux created a successful rental system that is regarded as the showcase to get more people biking.

In its first year Vélib had 198,913 annual subscribers, 277,193 seven days subscribers and a stunning 3,683,714 one day subscribers. All together they rented the bikes 26 million times and made an average trip of 18 minutes.

Currently there are 16,000 Vélib’s in circulation while there will be 20,600 bikes by the end of 2008. Between 2001 and 2007, the number of bikers in Paris has increased by 94% while car traffic has dropped 20% since then. Today the bike accounts for 2 to 3% of all traffic in Paris.

The down site of Vélib’s success is the huge cost as a result of vandalism and spare parts. In the first half year JCDecaux already spent € 20.6 million to keep the bikes on the road.

At the presentation of annual results over 2007, JCDecaux reported an overall fall in earning, partly caused the high costs of Vélib. Jean François Decaux said that: “The 20 other schemes the company runs are profitable, but the Paris Vélib is having a negative impact on margins even though group revenues were in line.”

The cost of running 16,000 bikes is higher than expected. On the other hand bike rental schemes have become a competitive tool to win new contracts or renew contracts for outdoor advertisers. The bicycle has become part of the contracts in most European tenders.

Despite the high financial costs the French are still very active on the market of bike rental systems. JCDecaux expects that a similar scheme in London could provide up to 8,000 bikes in inner-city boroughs such as Westminster and Camden by 2010, although Transport for London has not yet put such a project out to tender. The newly elected London mayor Boris Johnson is actively biking and appears to be even more pro-bike than his well known predecessor Ken Livingston.

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