Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another Bike-Sharing Program is Failing: Paris

50% of self service rental bikes in Paris have been stolen.
BBC NEWS - A popular bicycle rental scheme in Paris that has transformed travel in the city has run into problems just 18 months after its successful launch. Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen. Vandalism and theft are taking their toll and the company that runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.

Making matters worse is a YouTube sensation/trend known as “Velib Extreme” where people are taking the bikes down staircases and on BMX courses just for kicks, see an example here.

MP: For other failed bike-sharing programs see "The Berry Bikes: A Lesson in Private Property," E. Frank Stephenson's Division of Labour blog post, and a previous CD post.


At 2/14/2009 2:04 PM, Blogger Colin said...

Bike sharing doesn't strike me as a public good. Therefore, the fact that the private sector declined to provide such a service is a pretty solid indication that it wasn't a smart idea in the first place.

At 2/14/2009 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's amusing is the use of words like "popular" and "successful" with respect to the program's launch.

Being popular is easy with the people getting the free stuff, probably less so with those paying for it. If anyone had thought to ask.

At 2/14/2009 10:27 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

"The Tragedy of The Commons", indeed.

Anyone surprised that this rule applies, here?




At 2/14/2009 10:50 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> that has transformed travel in the city

Really? Transformed it into a ride down the Montmartre steps, apparently... LOL.

At 2/15/2009 3:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I remember it this bike sharing program is run by a french advertising firm. It was required by the french/paris government in order to get the contract for outdoor advertising.

So sure the advertising firm would like to get out of the bike sharing business - it never wanted to be in it in the first place.

At 2/17/2009 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let us not forget about the millions of trips made by bicycle over the past 18 months, rather than in cars. The ecological benefits of these bike share schemes alone are worth the investment and yearly upkeep. How do you quantify increased quality of life, reduction in traffic, increased health benefits, increased sense of community, I can keep going...

At 2/19/2009 8:54 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> made by bicycle over the past 18 months, rather than in cars.
> ... How do you quantify... I can keep going...

Go on, sound as stupid as you want prattling on with the standard mantras of the wonders of all sorts of "alternative transit".

Simply put -- faulty reasoning on every level.

1) You assume that the bikes replaced cars, when in fact at least a percentage almost certainly replaced bus rides and metro usage, along with pied-a-terre.
2) You also fail to grasp one of the reasons cars are often better than buses and trains AND bikes -- they take far less time to go from point a to point b, unless a and b are very close or population density is inordinately high (more on that below), even when you figure in the time spent parking, etc.
3) Human time is a very bad thing to waste. And THAT is how you quantify the measures you're drooling over -- how much human time do they cost, and how much human time are they worth?

In my moderate-sized town/city (pop 100k, metro area 250k), it typically takes 15-20 minutes to make it from one side of town to the other. During rush hour, add 15 minutes, so we're talking 15 minutes to 35 minutes to get ANYWHERE. Round trips are thus 30-70 minutes travel time.

If, however, you take the bus, then you can expect at least a 5-10 minute wait at the stop (depending on how willing you are to get screwed by missing the bus), then roughly the same travel time to wherever you go to. Of course, the bus you first get rarely goes exactly where you want, so, chances are, you're going to have to get off the first bus at some point, wait 5-10 more minutes, and then take the travel time. So, in addition to that 10-20 minutes of waiting for the bus, you have MORE travel time (seeing as the bus routes don't necessarily reflect the travel time for a car, which takes an optimal route). Add it up. 10-20 minutes waiting for the buses. 20-45 minutes travel time (due to the indirect routes). And an extra 5 minutes of walking time, since routes rarely go directly to the places you're looking for, and don't drop you off as close as possible, either, but at the nearest bus stop. So a trip takes 35-70 minutes one way, or 70-140 minutes round trip.

So buses take 2x as long in human time as cars. Add that up by the hundreds of thousands who ride buses every day, and you begin to grasp just why it is that mass transit needs to be subsidized.

Note also other applicable negative factors -- with a car, it's practical to combine trips, allowing you to make the overhead of one destination tie into multiple objectives. That's much less practical with a bus trip.

And, if you're not in an area of very high population density, buses run far less commonly, and may well stop entirely after a certain time of day. So your time is limited, wasted, and you are otherwise inconvenienced all around.

Bicycles do resolve some of those problems -- they do take you door to door (even closer, in most cases) but to counter that they travel much, much slower with a top speed of 20mph as opposed to a cruising speed of 35-55, so trips usually (excepting rush hour) go much, much slower.

Again, using my own town as an example, a typical cross-town trip on a bike takes in excess of 30 mins instead of 15 or so. And, while one's carrying capacity on a bike can be moderately high, it's nothing like that for a car, which reduces the value of trip combination.

At 2/19/2009 9:07 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

All of the above relate to how and why it is that alternative transit is a poor substitute for autos, to the point where it often has to be subsidized in order to get anyone to actually make use of it.

Certainly there are exceptions* -- even vast ones -- but for most places, situations, and locales, cars remain and will continue to remain as the best mode of transport in terms of human time.

* Most notably areas of high population density, such as NYC, Boston, Chicago, LA, and so forth. Or localized areas such as college campuses, and so forth.

At 3/11/2009 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry -- You are wrong. The program is not failing. The bikes are "out" at any one time -- not stolen or missing. The effects of the program on congestion, air quality, quality-of-life (according to random interviews) are all highly positive. The contractor, JC Decaux, is upset because the value of the billboards they traded the program for has greatly decreased, due to the general economic downturn.


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