Alex Bowden May 4 2018
The rollout of the next generation of Paris’s Vélib bike-sharing scheme is not going well. The mayor, Anne Hidalgo, felt moved to observe this week that Parisians “consider that the system they loved has been ruined.”
The Vélib system was launched in 2007 and was until last year run by JCDecaux. After the deal was put to tender, the French-Spanish consortium Smovengo won a €700m (£615m) deal to run the service for the next 15 years.
Smovengo promised to introduce high-tech internet-connected bikes, a third of which would be electric. The plan was to replace existing Vélib docking stations with 1,400 new ones designed specifically for the latest bikes by March of this year.
The Guardian (link is external) reports that while the old bikes were quickly removed and docking stations dug up, less than half of the new docking stations have so far been created.
Compounding this, many of those that have been installed have suffered software and electrical problems, with many only being run on battery power. The firm says this is resulting in “200 batteries (for 400 stations) having to be changed every day”.
France being France, the firm’s technicians also began striking over working rights and conditions last month.
Considering the service is built around easy access, users have understandably grown frustrated with difficulties finding usable bikes.
Smovengo has found itself paying millions of euros in penalties, while the number of Vélib subscribers has dropped from 290,000 last year to 219,000.
Simon Labouret of the cycling group Paris en Selle told the Guardian: “Users feel exasperated and angry at a system that doesn’t work.