A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Véliberation

Posted by Alan on May 5, 2011

Just before Easter we made a trip across the channel to Paris. Being a regular BorisBike user, trying a Vélib was on the to-do list.

Ruth a la Vélib

Ruth a la Vélib

First impressions were that these bikes are more flimsy. They don’t feel as heavy as the blue bikes of London and fixtures and fittings all seem a little smaller.

Velib: Basket not bag pouch

Basket not bag pouch

The first most striking difference is the basket, rather than the bag ‘pouch’ we have in London. This doesn’t make a lot of difference to me as I always carry some kind of bag, but I could see how if you didn’t how a basket could be much more useful. The gears and bell are exactly the same. Additionally you have a lock, so you can park anywhere if you need to – this means once you have a bike you can rely on it to be there. It is a source of frustration in London that the natural flow of bikes means that you’ll often find a city centre dock empty and have have to change your plans…

Saddle up

Saddle up

The saddle looks the same, though there are no helpful numbers on the seat post for quick adjustment. The docking mechanism is fitted to the side rather than the front – this felt a bit less solid than London, though it may mitigate against the idea of ‘hot-docking’ (riding into a dock without dismounting) for fear of leg injury!

Side dock

Side dock

During our days in Paris we saw many wrecked bikes in docking stations. According to wikipedia, many are vandalised as a backlash against the primary user group, the “bo-bos”: bourgeois-bohemians, the trendy middle class French. I haven’t yet seen this in London, despite the bikes being used primarily by a similar demographic. Towards the suburbs, the tyres and inner tubes seemed to be main target – many docking stations had multiple broken bikes in them.

Borked Bike

Borked Bike

Being a regular in London, I haven’t actually tried the casual hire process though I have been shown it. You put your card in and are given a receipt which you take to a docking station and key numbers in to the dock, using the 3 digit pad to the left of the wheel. Next time you want to take bike you put your card in again and it gives you a new receipt. It sounds onerous, but after Paris I can see how TfL came to that choice.

In Paris, you are given a card with a subscriber number on. This must be key in at the terminal where you then select your bike – if the only available bike happens to be 10 metres away at the other end of the dock so be it. Run! Push the button on the dock and the bike is released. I wasn’t too keen on this idea – at a nearly empty docking station it would be very easy for someone to take the bike you just rented and in the process lose you €150 in bike non-return fees…

Anyway I enjoyed the two circular trips I made and if I do go back to Paris I’ll certainly be using Vélib again.

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One Response to “Véliberation”

  1. […] By April with coast to coast fast approaching I hadn’t quite grasped how hard coast to coast might be at my level of fitness, instead choosing to enjoy a beer festival in Walthamstow, spending most of the night chatting with a band called Eastroad. However I did fit in a trip to Cornwall, cycling the Camel trail (post TBC!), cycling down England’s longest continuous gradient and up to Crystal Palace. Ruth and I also snuck in a trip to Paris and using the Paris Bikes. […]

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