Urban Velo

Vélib’ on the Skids

velibIf you’ve been following the Parisian saga that is Vélib’, then you won’t be terribly surprised to learn that 80 percent of the initial 20,600 bicycles have been stolen or damaged (according to a recent article in the New York Times).

The bikes cost approximately $3,500* each, which (unless my math is terribly wrong) means that the well intended French have incurred losses of roughly $50 million dollars on the project. The primary funder, JCDecaux, initially invested $140 million in the project, and plans to continue despite the setbacks. Its 10-year contract with the city of Paris states that for $5.5 million a year, it can put up 1,628 billboards, which it in turn will rent for a profit.

On the other hand, Urban Velo contributor Andy Singer points out, “Vandalism is hard to avoid with most programs. Overall, based on the millions of bike trips taken by Parisians, Vélib’ has been a qualified success—at least according to the “alternative” view.”

But he adds, “If everyone in the world was given a decent bike at birth, there’d be no need to steal them!”

Read the NYT article at www.nytimes.com.

*The NYT issued the following correction:

An article on Saturday about the Paris public bicycle rental system’s problems with theft and vandalism referred imprecisely to the cost of the specially designed bikes. While each bike costs about $3,500 at current exchange rates when the system’s startup and maintenance expenses are included, the manufacturing cost of each bike is about $1,050.

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  1. Triple SteveNovember 5, 2009 at 2:10 am

    This is highly overstated. The program has been running since 2007, and since then 16,000 bikes have been lost, stolen, or damaged irrepairably. This is about 20 per day. The number of 1,500 includes bikes with minor problems such as flat tires that are part of normal operation. There are between 50,000 and 150,000 trips per day on Velib bikes.

    The replacement cost is also not $3,500 but $1,300. In addition, Paris reimburses JCDeaux for part of that cost.

    The main issue is that JCDeaux wants to get out of their contract with Paris because they are not selling as many billboard ads as they had hoped, and they are attempting to spread news of Velib’s failure.

  2. sabNovember 5, 2009 at 3:54 am

    I just wonder how those bikes cost $3,500, looks more like $500

  3. JulienNovember 5, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Your math is not wrong, but the $3,500 cost for a Vélib is pure fantasy…

  4. AndreasNovember 5, 2009 at 4:46 am

    I like the get given a bike when you are born thing. Mind you these days you can get pretty strong discounts and I don’t exactly think its the cost of a bike that puts people off.

  5. TerryNovember 5, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Good intentions doesn’t make socialism work.

    I agree with sab. If those bikes cost $3,500, then someone made a lot of money on them. But that is standard politics I guess.

  6. Mad Jack McMadNovember 5, 2009 at 10:29 am

    How is this socialism, ass? This is a service provided for a fee, run by a private company that has a contract with the city. The company now disagrees with the terms of the contract, apparently because they are unable to extract the value they initially expected from the deal.

  7. Tony BullardNovember 5, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Seems to me the main issue arises from 3500 dollar bikes up for public use.

  8. Treberden from ParisNovember 5, 2009 at 12:10 pm


    I don’t know where the jorunaliste gets the 3,5000$ for a velib bike.
    It’s made in gungary by people paid under the minimum wage over there…

  9. x.10November 5, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    The nytimes corrected the price to $1,050, but I think they are still wrong. As far as I know a Vélib’ cost around $500 or less.

    @ Terry: This Vélib’ system has nothing to do with socialism, it’s it pure capitalism. In exhange of the Vélib (which is not free for users) JC Decaux has gained the full market of advertising surfaces (bus stops, posters…) in the city of Paris. It is very lucrative for JC Decaux.

  10. TerryNovember 5, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Socialism not in the political sense, but in the sense that people don’t own the bikes themselves and the bikes are used by many–not just the owner, so the users are not exactly real concerned with what happens to the bikes. In other words, “It ain’t mine, and I ain’t paying for it, so I don’t care too much what happens to it.”
    Thanks x.10 for being able to disagree with me without calling names. Not everyone has that kind of class.

  11. Mad Jack McMadNovember 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

    So by your definition, renting is Socialism.

  12. TerryNovember 6, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    No, I know people who rent homes of apartments and none of them has a multitude (“used by many”) of people using the house–just the they themselves. In any case, if that is the way you wish to twist it, then the way I used the word “socialism” in this case would be more like renting a car. And I, for one, would not buy a used rental vehicle because of the fact that even though people pay to use it, they do not treat such vehicles as they would their own that they paid for out of their own pocket. In fact, many people abuse such vehicles. In other words, “It ain’t mine, and I ain’t paying for it, so I don’t care too much what happens to it.” This is typical of “shared” things–bikes, cars or whatever.

    You may be right that I should have used a different word because “socialism” in this case as most would assume the definition to be is different than how I used it.

    In any case, I have also disagreed with people on this website. Usually, I then just state my opinion or don’t reply at all. Never have I called anyone an “ass” just because I disagreed with them or even if I really did think they were an ass. Some, like you, seem to believe that being civil is optional when on a website where you do not meet people face to face. This is where I disagree with you. But I feel no need to call you an “ass”.

    You may be right; I may be right. Why exactly do you believe that name-calling is going to lead to a further civilized discussion of any subject? Why does twisting what I said (“renting is socialism”) make you think that you have proven anything? Why are you more interested in wining some kind of verbal war than commenting on the original subject?

    Next time you disagree with someone, why not show some class like x.10 did. He (she?) totally disagreed with me, yet not only acted civil about it, but also gave some interesting information. I would enjoy discussing things with x.10. I don’t believe I know everything, and I enjoy speaking with people who think different than I do. But because of the way you behave, I would think discussing things with you would not be enjoyable at all. So you, from now on, I will just ignore.

  13. Renaissance Bicycles » Blog Archive » The Revolution Will Not Be TelevisedNovember 7, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    [...] Velo — Vélib’ on the Skids — [...]

  14. Outdoor Outlet ApparelNovember 9, 2009 at 9:58 am

    SAD What folks do.

  15. NY_cyclistNovember 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    The rich steal 90% of the world’s resources. The poor vandalize whatever is left. Everyone thinks he’s done the right thing. We, humans, are a very sad bunch, aren’t we?

  16. Jim C.November 9, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Name calling seems present on all websites. I’m not surprised its here too. Ain’t no wonder people tend to quite posting because of that kind of behavior.

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