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Paris Notebook: The Vélib’
Dartmouth has had several failed experiments with free bicycle plans; it seems students would rather throw bikes into the Connecticut or into the woods, or pilfer their seats, rather than safeguard them for the community. Little surprise there for political philosophers of a skeptical bent. However here in Paris, technology has ridden to the rescue in the form of a community bicycle system that does not depend on intrinsic human honesty: the Vélib’.
Linked by the Internet, there are Vélib’ bike stations all over Paris, putatively never more than 300 meters from each other. The stand outside our apartment has slots for 40 bikes. You can sign up for a year-long plan for €29 ($38) or for shorter-term agreements, and from then on you have the right to take as many half-hour rides for free as you wish. If you keep a Vélib’ for longer than 30 minutes, you start to pay progressively steeper rental fees, though you can repeatedly return a Vélib’ to a rental stand and immediately rent it out again by swiping your personal Vélib’ RFID card over one of the bike stands and releasing a new bike.
The bikes themselves seem ungainly, but they are surprisingly nimble and functional: three speeds, an always-on LED headlight, a luggage basket in front of the handlebars, handbrakes (often of limited utility due to wear) and an adjustable seat. A good number of the bikes seem out of commission at any given time: that which can be broken will be broken either by intention or excessive use. One hopes that future generations of bikes will benefit from this experience. All in all, this much used and widely liked system seems destined to be with us for a good while.
Note: For those of you whose French I professor taught you that the French word for bicycle is “bicyclette,” please erase that erroneous fact from your mind. The French universally employ the word “vélo” (rhymes with “halo” but with the accent on the first syllable).
Addendum: The Vélib’ system is the biggest free bike system in the world. It was modeled after the Vélo’v project in Lyons, France, though that system had other, smaller-scale precursors. Since then a number of cities have followed on, including Montreal, Copenhagen, Luxembourg City, Dublin, London, Minneapolis, Melbourne and Ottawa. Free bike systems are currently planned for Boston, Washington DC and Mexico City. A friendly Dartblog reader informs us that the Minnesota system, Nice Ride Minnesota, has an attractive website.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own interviews, a review of…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…