24 March 2007

Bicyclettes à Paris

Great places don't happen by accident. Paris has had zoning for 600 years. They've got a fabulous metro system. And this year they're putting in 20,000+ bikes at 1,450 stations.

Evidently Lyon has been doing this for a couple years, and it works great. Makes a lot more sense than what my hearttown of Portland, Oregon, tried to do with bikes — just putting out hundreds of yellow ones that kids wrecked and homeless folks commandeered and a few weeks later, voila! No more bikes! Now consider France:
"It has completely transformed the landscape of Lyon -- everywhere you see people on the bikes," said Jean-Louis Touraine, the city's deputy mayor....

The Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delano, has the same aim, said his aide, Jean-Luc Dumesnil: "We think it could change Paris's image -- make it quieter, less polluted, with a nicer atmosphere, a better way of life."

But there is a practical side, too, Dumesnil said. A recent study analyzed different trips in the city "with a car, bike, taxi and walking, and the bikes were always the fastest."

The Lyon rental bikes, with their distinctive silver frame, red rear-wheel guard, handlebar basket and bell, can also be among the cheapest ways to travel, because the first half-hour is free, and most trips are shorter than that.

"It's faster than the bus or metro, it's good exercise, and it's almost free," said Vianney Paquet, 19, who is studying law in Lyon. Paquet said that he uses the rental bikes four or five times a day and pays 10 euros (about $13) a year, half for an annual membership fee and half for rental credit that he never actually spends because his rides typically last just a few minutes.
Hold the presses. Damn. This turns out to be a no go.

Did you see that? Paris' mayor is a socialist? Forget about it then.

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