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Old 11-15-12, 10:58
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Christian Christian is offline
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What do you think about the rent-a-bike system that many European cities have installed over the last few years?

Luxembourg City has them, but I never tried them for several reasons. One was the topology of the city, with a lot of up and down, narrow cobble stone streets, etc. Another one was traffic and security - it is everything but a bicyclie friendly layout. The third was public transportation: I could usually get where I wanted to go much faster and safer by bus then by bike.

Now I live in Sevilla and have signed up for what is called here "Sevici". After about two months of usage, here are my thoughts:

The topology of the city works well for cycling - it is almost exclusively flat. The problem with these rent-a-bikes is that they are so heavy, that even the slightest inclination makes you have to switch into the lowest gear. In fact, I don't really consider these bicycles, weight-wise and handling-wise they are more like motorcycles, except of course you still have to pedal.

The traffic is partly well adapted to cycling. Two of the main streets in downtown have no cars, only cycling and tram. Much of the newer part of the city has broad and safe bicycle lanes. The other part of the city is horrible for cycling, and especially for Sevici. Even a 30-second ride on the cobblestones makes you feel like Fabian Cancellara after PR. Many of the streets are very narrow and still have heavy traffic. While on a normal bike you may be able to avoid a lot of it, the difficult handling of these rent-a-bikes makes for quite a few dangerous situations.

Another problem is the traffic rules. In order to get from my house to school, I have two options: either go through the pedestrian zone (which is prohibited and franky, impossible) or go the wrong way down a one-way street. I usually choose the second option, which sometimes works well but still feels bad because you only end up p*ssing off the motorists, and they have a good reason to hate you.

When it's not pedestrian zones or one-way streets, it's bicycle lanes, but again there is a problem: the pedestrians. Most of them don't realize they are walking on a bicycle lane (many of them are tourists), and they are impervuous to bell-ringing. This again makes for quite a few difficult situations, as cyclists and pedestrians get frustrated with each other.

The final problem consists in finding a bicycle and tjen finding a place to drop it off. Luckily, my schedule is quite different from most peoples, so that I don't have so many problems with this. But when you are late in the morning, you take a Sevici - only to find that there is no free space to drop it off at your destination. In fact, there may already be a line of three or four others waiting to drop their bike off. So the time you make up by using the bicycle, you lose again by waiting to return it.

I have also already had my first fall - slipped and fell on a wet day in a square that has marble-like flooring. It was nothing serious but still I can't help but wonder whether these rent-a-bikes may be a serious safety issue in these cities. Think about it: people who use them don't wear helmets, may not know the city traffic, may not be good bike handlers ... it only seems like a matter of time until someone gets seriously hurt by this, and I wonder whether there are statistics about accidents with these bikes. It sure would be interesting to know if and how many there are.

In general using the Sevici cuts my daily commute by about half. I like using it at certain times of the day, but in the end I often prefer walking because it is much less stressful than using the bike!
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Old 11-15-12, 18:11
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RedheadDane RedheadDane is offline
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I'm a bit confused about what you mean with rental bikes. Because when I hear that phrase I think something like this:



Where you just go over, put in some money and go. With people trusting you to put it back into a parking-spot when you're done.
But your talk about 'signing up'.
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Old 11-16-12, 16:12
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I was in Paris in July 2010 and saw the Velib stations everywhere...and of course, people riding the Velib bikes. I also noted it seemed like 95% of those riding did not have helmets. I was surprised to read that in 2011, there were NO cycling deaths in Paris.

http://road.cc/content/news/52423-pa...mping-cyclists

My mom once told me biking in Paris was fine during German occupation because of gas rationing and few cars were on the road. She gave it up years later after finding herself in a tight spot between a bus and a truck. I think she would have been happy to see what Paris has done to promote cycling.
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Old 11-16-12, 20:33
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I often use the Vélib when I go to Paris. Here are some observations:

Positive:
1. As I almost always get around by bike, the Vélib lets me do this without taking my own bike on the train. This way I can see Paris in all its glory instead of being stuck underground in the metro with hoards of smelly tourists. I usually take my helmet with me (there are more and more helmets in Paris)
2. The advantage over having your own bike is that you can alternate riding and walking without having to worry about going back to get your bike, you simply pick up a different one when you want to get somewhere a bit faster. The bottom line is more freedom.
3. Cheaper than public transport.

Negatives:
1. The Vélibs are heavy so not very efficient. This doesn't bother me too much as usually I am not in a big hurry when in Paris. The biggest inconvenience for me is that I am quite tall and I can't get the seat high enough to be comfortable.
2. Even though there are Vélib stands everywhere, often there aren't any openings available to return the bike, which means having to look around for another stand and ending up farther from the desired destination. This can be stressful if returning the bike at a train station and not wanting to miss the train. This is especially a problem in the winter when fewer Vélibs are in service so the stands are pretty full.
3. Paris traffic is pretty dense and agressive, you have to be careful of sudden lane changes and a general lack of respect. The good news is that as there are more and more bikes on the road, it actually becomes safer as the automobilists are more aware of cyclists.
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Old 12-18-12, 18:42
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Xavier.Lopez Xavier.Lopez is offline
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I used to live in Paris and London, I can give my feeling for both bike. ("Velib'", "Barclays").

The Velib are quite heavy, bikes are very often broken, or the tyres are flat most of the time, but I had a subscription for 2/3 years and I enjoyed to ride them sometime...
It is not very difficult to get a Velib' and then to put it back at one other stations, except for...
Some stations are very often full in the peak hours, especially those in touristic places (St Michel, Champs Elysées etc) between 18:00 and 00:00.
From midnight, it is different, those in touristics places start to be empty, and those in the residential areas start to be full, especially during very busy night like "Féte de la musique" (remember, was looking about an hour for a station, went to bed at 6.00 am) so sometime it's easier to take a cab or the night bus to get to your/her worm bed...

Barclays bikes are a bit lighter, rarely broken but it is just for tourist, when you live in London (so in zone 2 or 3...), you'd never get a station close to your place...

Finaly velib' are better thanks to the high number of station, but the better way to ride in a busy city is definitly a fixie, especially when you're used to ride a proper bike fast, with a velib' or Barclays as soon as you're riding more than 25km/h you sweat like a pig...

Last edited by Xavier.Lopez; 12-18-12 at 19:12.
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Old 12-21-12, 09:55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frenchfry View Post
I often use the Vélib when I go to Paris. Here are some observations:

Positive:
1. As I almost always get around by bike, the Vélib lets me do this without taking my own bike on the train. This way I can see Paris in all its glory instead of being stuck underground in the metro with hoards of smelly tourists. I usually take my helmet with me (there are more and more helmets in Paris)
2. The advantage over having your own bike is that you can alternate riding and walking without having to worry about going back to get your bike, you simply pick up a different one when you want to get somewhere a bit faster. The bottom line is more freedom.
3. Cheaper than public transport.

Negatives:
1. The Vélibs are heavy so not very efficient. This doesn't bother me too much as usually I am not in a big hurry when in Paris. The biggest inconvenience for me is that I am quite tall and I can't get the seat high enough to be comfortable.
2. Even though there are Vélib stands everywhere, often there aren't any openings available to return the bike, which means having to look around for another stand and ending up farther from the desired destination. This can be stressful if returning the bike at a train station and not wanting to miss the train. This is especially a problem in the winter when fewer Vélibs are in service so the stands are pretty full.
3. Paris traffic is pretty dense and agressive, you have to be careful of sudden lane changes and a general lack of respect. The good news is that as there are more and more bikes on the road, it actually becomes safer as the automobilists are more aware of cyclists.
ˆˆ^ This.

I live in Montreal and we have Bixi. Pretty much what frenchfry says apply here.

Freedom and convenience are to me the reasons this system work.
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