Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I am usually late getting into most things, and I have been meaning to try out the Velib, which was set in train a few weeks ago but I wasn't, erm, libre in order to do so. As it turned out, being a bit late for a trek over to the 6th arrondissement to watch the Sligo-Cork All-Ireland quarter-final on Saturday (with, alas, disappointing results) I was forced to take one for a less leisurely spin than I had intended. Leisure has been the priority of most people that have been taking the bikes so far, and it has been obvious that many of them are not used to riding a bike through the city. But, it being summer, the Parisian traffic is not too heavy and the real litmus test will arrive in September when people will start using the bikes as an alternative to the Metro to get to and from work.
The bikes are not terribly attractive, being built with durability in mind and though they do seem at first to be excessively safety-conscious, you can pick up a fair speed on them. The only problem is parking; as with a four-wheeled vehicle, spaces are at a premium, or at least they were at St-Germain-des-Prés when I arrived over there. At €29 per year for a subscription, with the first half-hour's travel each day free, the deal is not too bad for those that plan to use it regularly, though one would imagine that the city's more enthusiastic cyclists will be unwilling to trade their own steeds in for the Velib, and I plan to repair my own bike once the weather starts getting a bit more constant. The Velib bikes do, of course, have the attractive potential of serving as late-night crosstown transport when taxis are thin on the ground, but a restaurateur I know was recently informed by the police superintendent of the 4th arrondissement that the Velibs are going to be targeted for spot checks in case drunken revellers decide to cycle home, which can result in two points on one's driver's license, as happened to a Frenchman I know earlier this year.