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Vélib, a trip report

This topic contains 20 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  buffalo buffalo 7 mos, 2 weeks.

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Ahlir

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May 12 2013 at 9:18pm #

I was in Paris a week and a half ago and got to use their bike-share system. It was fabulous. I ended up writing a bunch about it; rather than put it all here I did a blog, complete with pics!
–> here

I had the following remarks maybe relevant to Pittsburgh:

1. Most rack stands are pretty big and have many slots. It made me feel like it would be unlikely to end up someplace with no bikes or no slots.

2. The system includes “V+” stands which, if you leave a bike at one gets you a credit. (It was something like 10 minutes extra ride time for free.) What a great idea for managing distribution! How about a 20 min credit to get a bike from Downtown to Squirrel Hill? Although it didn’t seem to be the case I could easily imagine some sort of dynamic version that allocated credits according to need.

3. The bikes appeared instrumented and maybe even do self-diagnosis of problems. “Good” bikes have a little green light that turns red when somethings gone wrong. (Or maybe something else is going on; didn’t look into it.)

Looking forward to the Pittsburgh ride-share! It might even make me stop using my own bike for commuting.

  • This topic was modified 11 mos, 2 weeks ago by  Ahlir.

Vannevar

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May 13 2013 at 7:15am #

Excellent report and im glad you put it online where the public is likely to find it! Great blog!


salty

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Sep 2 2013 at 5:32pm #

So, I had my first Vélib ride today – I bought a weekly pass (8€, note a yearly pass is only 29€!) for myself and the wife so I’m sure we’ll be riding more.

I’ve been in Paris for 4 days now, and I dare say I see almost as many velib users as private bikes. Maybe it’s not half but it’s very significant, and it really got me thinking – wow, maybe if we had a system like this I would use it instead of owning a bike. Paris is smaller in area than Pittsburgh (40 sq mi vs 58), and there are 1800+ stations! They really are everywhere – you’re probably not going to have to walk more than a block to find a bike. No worries about getting it stolen, or taking it on the bus, just park it and get another one when you need it.

I could write a ton more (and probably will), but in the meantime here’s an article about some cool things happening in Paris – more 30km/h zones, 20km/h pedestrian priority zones, and Idaho stop rules for bikes (bikes are already allowed to go contraflow on many 1 way streets and in can use most bus lanes).


Pseudacris

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Sep 2 2013 at 6:43pm #

I am intrigued by the V+ incentive!


salty

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Sep 2 2013 at 7:20pm #

Yeah, basically if you ride a bike up a hill (Montmartre, etc) you get 15 min of credit you can use later (as extra time beyond the 30 min free limit). We were headed that way but didn’t go quite far enough up the hill to get the credit.

I wonder how well it actually works though. The app shows you available/free spots at the stations and nearly all of the stations around where I was going were empty or nearly so at noon.


StuInMcCandless

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Sep 2 2013 at 7:44pm #

@salty – Your “article” link isn’t working for me. It’s red like a link, but doesn’t resolve to a URL.


Ahlir

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Sep 2 2013 at 8:27pm #

Ok, I just got back from Lyon, which also has a bike-share system (Vélo-V) that’s pretty much like the Paris system. Stands are pretty much everywhere. (And a week costs you € 5.)

But there were differences. Several times I would arrive at my destination and the rack was full; I had to go down the road until I found one with a space (note: I was impatient, usually you can wait a few minutes and someone will show up). The same happens the other way: no bikes, you walk.

I saw repair trucks (as in Paris) doing repairs on racked bikes. Also a purpose-built truck whose job seemed to be to transfer bikes from full racks to elsewhere.

One very useful user habit: If a bike had a problem, the last rider would rotate the seat backwards and tilt it down (sorry, no pic). This clearly told you not to use those bikes. Extremely helpful.


salty

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Sep 2 2013 at 8:31pm #

Sorry, I must have botched it (I usually test since it’s easy to screw up). But I liked it so much I sent it to Peduto and Fitzgerald:

I like that because it’s not some pie in the sky thing like turning the city into Amsterdam overnight, they’re doing a lot of very practical low overhead things. Turn Market Square into a pedestrian district – they could do it tomorrow. Add some 18 mph zones (OK, I’ll settle for 20). Get rid of right turn on red (like NYC). Allow bikes to go “against” one way streets.

Bikes in bus lanes is tougher since you’d have to widen the lane, or not make it contraflow… So put bus lanes on Forbes and Fifth, in the right direction, and extend them as far as possible. Let taxis use them, like they do here – awesome idea.


Ahlir

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Sep 2 2013 at 8:40pm #

ah, bus/bike lanes:

Look closely and you see that the other two lanes also have bicycle symbols. Is that great or what?

Of course, not all is permitted:


Mikhail

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Sep 2 2013 at 11:07pm #

salty wrote:more 30km/h zones, 20km/h pedestrian priority zones

Kool! :) 30 km/h is 18.75 mph, and 20 km/h is 12.5 mph. I like it.


sarapgh2

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Sep 3 2013 at 9:31am #

I love reading trip reports of bike shares in other cities. Thank you! And please continue to share your experiences and pics:)


RustyRed

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Sep 3 2013 at 1:30pm #

Ahlir wrote:

Of course, not all is permitted:

That looks like the international symbol for Bike Jousting to me!

… and thanks for posting! Very interesting! :)


edmonds59

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Sep 3 2013 at 2:39pm #

Hows come the word for “Bus” is in English?


RustyRed

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Sep 3 2013 at 3:05pm #

Say, I just learned something! Bus is actually French!
Le omnibus.
*spoken with an outrageous French accent.*


salty

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Sep 3 2013 at 5:56pm #

Ahlir, looks like those extra symbols are a bike box for the intersection, I see that around here a lot too. So filtering is not only accepted but encouraged.

If you take a bike to a full station you can go to the terminal and get 15 min to find another. The terminal will also show you a map, I believe with near real-time available/free (the smartphone app certainly shows you that – and there might even be an API because I have at least one third party app which gets the same info.). I read somewhere there is a station always within 300m – which I can believe, and it truly is astounding. I can’t emphasize enough how much more useful the whole thing feels when the stations are ubiquitous.

I have to admit seeing a lot better red light compliance – for cyclists and drivers alike, “yellowish” lights mostly included. And I think I’ve covered enough of the city by foot and bike without seeing a stop sign to postulate they don’t have any.

Helmet use (velib or not) is essentially zero. Although, I suspect there is a law for motorcycles/scooters since they all (and I mean all) wear helmets.


Ahlir

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Sep 3 2013 at 8:53pm #

@Salty: you’re right, does look like boxes…
And, yes, filtering (and salmoning) seem perfectly acceptable.

The kiosks do tell you there are no bikes available (even if you’re staring at seemingly rideable ones in the racks). A screen or two in you get a list of three nearby stations with available bikes (of course, if you don’t know the neighborhood it’s kind of useless). On the whole I found the Paris system somewhat better organized.

Lyon has these intersections with only pedestrian lights; I couldn’t figure them out and just rode through. But these were all side streets. One neat thing was the reverse yellow lights: the yellow goes back on before the green. If the coast is clear you can start into the intersection. Red-light compliance seems to be a main-street thing…

Also:


buffalo buffalo

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Sep 7 2013 at 7:14pm #

Ahlir wrote:Ok, I just got back from Lyon, which also has a bike-share system (Vélo-V) that’s pretty much like the Paris system. Stands are pretty much everywhere. (And a week costs you € 5.)

5 EUR / week ?! Holy carp. Went to DC about a year and a half ago–i must’ve misread the sign, because it seemed like nearly a hundred dollars (maybe that was just the damage hold; at any rate, it was more than i had available). The actual rates still aren’t that cheap, though–nearly $100/day


Ahlir

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Sep 7 2013 at 10:00pm #

Yes, and 1.5€ a day…

Haven’t had a chance to use the DC system as yet, but your pointer describes a quite reasonable arrangement.

All these systems are geared to transit, i.e. short trips (max 30min). The idea is that you go someplace , drop the bike then get another one when you move on. It’s not a bike-rental scheme, it’s part of an urban transit scheme, like a bus. Except it carries just one person at a time. Like a seat on the bus.

This is why you get penalized for keeping the bike longer that you should need (and on an escalating scale). If you want a bike for a whole day, you should go to a rental place. It’s like renting a car instead of taking the bus.


buffalo buffalo

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Sep 9 2013 at 9:07am #

On the one hand, the bus doesn’t put a hold on your bank account which may be worth a day’s wages (if not more). On the other hand, the bus doesn’t (usually) have to worry about riders stealing the seats…

I do wonder how other systems handle this.


Ahlir

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Sep 9 2013 at 6:35pm #

I’m not sure that it’s a bank account hold. I think it’s more like a pending charge on your credit card, which is not posted if all goes well. I’m not too sure of the details but in Montreal one person’s card can be used to guarantee bikes for others. Bank holds do come with those debit card thingies (so don’t use them).

In both cities you can put your bike subscription on your transit card; intermodal and all that! Since PAT is moving to a card system I wouldn’t be surprised if we get that also.

But that’s a good question in general. What, exactly, is the target demographic for bike-share? (I get that it should at least be about weaning car drivers).


buffalo buffalo

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Sep 9 2013 at 7:43pm #

[double argh. wrong thread, sorry.]

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