Dienstag, 22. April 2008

Vive le Velib!

My morning commute is always pleasant. I cycle along the canal, then cross the former German-German border, cross the Spree and pass Bertolt Brecht's old theatre just before I reach my desk. But last week, my commute was even more beautiful. Even though I was away from home, I was still able to commute by bike - a real treat. Velib, Paris 20,000 rentable bikes, made it possible for me to pass by the Bibliotheque nationale, Notre Dame and the Tuileries as I headed to a cafe that I turned into my office (as the public was not welcome at Bush's Major Emitter Meeting which was taking place across the road). Sitting there, trying to get info on what was happening behind closed doors, was not very glamerous. But the commute certainly was. It was tourist Paris in about 40 minutes. It was, as the spring sun was out, simply beautiful. So I want to thanks the Paris Mayor who promoted the scheme and JC Decaux, I guess, as they finance it (in return for advertisement). The velib bikes are heavy, as they need to be sturdy. They are not high-tech - but you hardly ever need more than three gears in Paris. There are free for the first 30 minutes. And, apparently, if you do cycle up the hill to Montmarte, you get special credit for the next time you book. The velib are easy to use - and much more successful than the Bahn bikes we have in Berlin. Talking to locals, velibs are certainly used - and in many different ways. They are everything from a handy alternative when your bike is in repairs, to a cheap replacement for a taxi when returning from a party late at night, to an ideal tool for short, office-related trips - as you can take the bikes just one way (you just have to return it at one of the 1,500 velib stations, literally sprinkled all over town). May many cities copy the velib model. And introduce sustainable jeepney's while they are at it as well ;-).

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