Posted by: bikenwalk | November 20, 2008

Velib, French for “Bikeability”

Actually Velib, or velib libre, means free bike or bicycle freedom. Velib has also meant a new way for citizens and visitors of Paris to see the city of love. Velib is a bicycle sharing program that was started in the summer of 2007 with a fleet of over 10,000 bicycles. Like most rental cars services, for a nominal fee the bikes can be picked up at one of the drop points around Paris using a swipe-card. The bikes can then be used to tour the city. Subscriptions can be purchased for anywhere from a day to several years. The program has skyrocketed and spin-offs have poped up in cities like Rome, Amsterdam, and even Tokyo. On this side of the pond, a bike-sharing program called “Smartbike DC” was created by the Clear Channel Outdoor organization and the District Department of Transportation. To prove that this system works at any level, McDaniel College, a small liberal arts school in Central Maryland, has started a yellow bike program that is modeled after the Velib program and the Smart Bike Project.

Smart Bike Drop Point

Smart Bike Drop Point

What I think makes these programs so successful is that it eliminates what has been found to be the most intimindating part of cycling, and what keeps most people off bikes, is the technical aspects of bicycle riding. By leaving the maintence to the mechanics, people finally have a carefree way to enjoy bike riding. The only way I can see to make bike riding more convienient is to provide user-friendly maps of the community so that bikers can find a route that gets them to where they want to go, suites their capabilities, avoids any potential hazards, and is scenic and enjoyable. This is what I hope to accomplish through the Bike N’ Walk Program. With websites like www.mappler.com/rubike I hope to provide a way for communities to come together and provide relevant bike information regarding their streets and cities. I hope that sharing this information on these mapping websites makes bike riding as convenient as Velib has made bike riding in Paris.

For more infomation bike sharing programs, please visit the following sites:

Velib, Paris France, www.en.velib.paris.fr/ (English Version)

Smart Bike D.C., Washington DC www.smartbikedc.com/program_information.asp

Yellow Bike Project, Portland, OR and McDaniel College c2.com/ybp/

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