Ah, Velib, I think I love you

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On Saturday I was in Paris at the invitation of cycle tyre manufacturer Hutchinson. I had two hours to kill before being shuttled the 90kms to the Hutchinson factory. Hmm, two hours in Paris, what to do? As I’ve written lots of articles about Velib for Quickrelease.tv and BikeBiz.com I had an easy decision.

However, it was a beautiful Spring day and I was not the only person to have the same idea. In fact, it was tough to locate an available bike, such was the heavy demand. A lone Velib was spotted, though, and hastily hired.

So, what was it like to ride ‘velo liberation’? Surprisingly good. The bikes are heavy and I wouldn’t want to do an Etape du Tour with one but for a city runaround they’re reassuringly robust.

It was startling to see so many Velibs being used. They’re truly ubiquitous. Tourists were on them but so were plenty of locals, taking their shopping home. The bikes are free for the first half-hour so are perfect for short trips.

Thomas from Hutchinson lives in Paris and is a keen cyclist. Despite owning and riding bikes in Paris he still maintains a Velib account for the odd occasion he may be bike-less but in need of a quick transit through the congested streets.

The current mayor of Paris was re-elected largely on the popularity of Velib. And seeing it in action for the first time I can well understand why. If I was on foot only with two hours to kill I’d have traipsed to the nearest tourist hotspot and then people-watched in a cafe. With an easy-to-rent hire bike I was able to do a much more ambitious city tour.

It’s no surprise that Paris is extending the scheme, adding another 7000 bikes. Even this won’t be enough. There are supposed to be plans for London to get 80,000 Velib-style bikes. This is more like it.

Here’s a selection of my pix of Saturday’s two hour sojourn in Paris (the full Flickr set is here):

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