Saturday, 27 August 2011

Saturday afternoon

So there I was. I'd been to school soccer. There was the lawn to mow, shopping to do, meals to plan, plenty of stuff to fix and shelves to put up. So I did what any reasonable person would do in that situation - made a cup of coffee and put the telly on.

On the ABC was a show called E2 Transport. It's a series made by PBS in the US and is about alternative transport forms to the car. One episode is about the London congestion charge.

This show was all about the Paris Velib bike hire. It was brilliant. Granted it was done slightly through rose-coloured spectacles but even so, the authorities over there have made some great achievements.

In planning the system, the authorities studied a number of systems around the world, some of which had been successful and some abject failures. Whether they looked at Melbourne was not made clear. When they were puttin gthe system together, they looked at the population in various areas of Paris including what businesses were in the area. They divided the city into 400 square meter blocks. Each has its own Velib docking station. The number of bikes is determined by the projected demand.

It has been a roaring success. Not only are the Velib bikes weel used but the authorities have found that cycling generally has increased and local bike shops can barely keep up with demand.

Servicingf so many bikes would be difficult but the company that runs the systems uses a big barge that sails back and forth along the Seine picking up broken bikes from cages. There are people that go around inspecting and servcing bikes. If they cannot fix something there and then, they take the bike to one of the cages on the bank of the river.

The right number of bikes and making them easy to use are key. Melbourne and Brisbane (and indeed Adelaide if it is planning this) could learn a thing or to. You would think the relevant authorities would already have looked at Paris and seen what works and what doesn't. Three particular words shout out at me as an obstacle to success. They are "mandatory", "helmet" and "laws". But hey, that's just me. Apparently, the Melbourne and Brisbane authorities are fairly certain that that has nothing to do with it.

You make up your own mind. Whatever you might think, the people of Paris seem to be doing ok. One drawback so far seems to be vandalism.

You can see a trailer of the show here and the entire series is on iTunes.

Borrowed from here.

An added bonus, if you're into that sort of thing, is that it is narrated by Brad Pitt.


  1. There is an excellent episode on Portland, OR but it hardly mentions bicycles? It does talk about how the tram extension revitalised dormant areas of that city which is a bit like Adelaide. I think we are actually sister cities and DETI studied their tram extension for us. My mother in law's partner was actually the DETI staffer who swapped jobs and lived there for six months.

  2. Yes. A shame it doesn't cover bikes too. That's something Portland seems to have done well too.