Dreaming of a very public bike system just like the one I utilized in Paris


The creator driving a Velib’ bike in Paris in 2013.
(Photographs: Maritza Arango).

That is how I navigated my pupil in Paris years being a full-time bike and public transport commuter with out having my very own bike and with out draining my pupil checking account. Once I was in class I may get across the metropolis with out utilizing a automotive or a bus.

The later the night time will get, the drunker the persons are on these buses. Another excuse to make use of the bike share system and keep away from the chilly and creepy bus station.

The “Metropolis of Lights” is a good metropolis for biking alongside the Seine River and the multicultural neighborhoods, whereas avoiding its darkish facet: the crowded, soiled and typically harmful public transportation system.

Each time I hear individuals discuss Paris they point out the marvels of town, the cultural heritage, the museums, the meals and all of the constructive and delightful issues town has to supply. Once I point out that I spent nearly six years dwelling within the metropolis after which determined to maneuver again to Colombia and now to the US, I at all times get shocking feedback about how unhappy and unsuitable it was for me to depart such a tremendous place. What individuals don’t know (and by no means ask about) is that Paris is without doubt one of the costliest cities on the earth. It’s additionally a metropolis that may be very aggressive in direction of ladies on streets and public transportation — which one of many most important explanation why I used the general public bike system nearly on a regular basis.

Paris is a celebration metropolis that stays up very late, day by day, all 12 months lengthy. Sadly, the metro or different public transport don’t work late, leaving individuals the one choice of utilizing the night time bus — or the “nightmare” like some individuals, particularly ladies, name it. The later the night time will get, the drunker the persons are on these buses. Another excuse to make use of the bike share system and keep away from the chilly and creepy bus station.

Once I was a pupil between 2010 and 2015, I used to pay €30 (about $35) a month for my Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) card. RATP runs the Paris transport system that features the Metro (subway), tram, suburban specific trains, bus and the “Noctilien” (night time bus). The worth I used to pay included limitless rides on all of the RATP companies. As a part of my pupil advantages, this card additionally included the limitless Vélib’ bike service.

Vélib’ is a public bike share system that provides “Bikes for everybody”. And it lives as much as that declare. There are 1,400 docking stations and 20,000 bikes (35% of that are electrical). As of 2020 there have been 400,000 Velib subscribers who make about 5.5 million journeys each month. The one-day journey document was 215,000 on September eleventh, 2020.

[Postcards from Paris: Mixtes, street scenes, and a budding bike network (2017)]

Once I moved to Portland earlier this 12 months, the thought of gaining access to a public bike service once more was very thrilling. I rapidly found that the system works very in another way and that it isn’t in any respect a motorcycle system for everybody. With little question, Portland’s Biketown affords a fantastic answer for sporadic rides when my bike isn’t working, or when somebody that doesn’t have a motorcycle wants one, or for vacationers to find town; however I nonetheless surprise how accessible it truly is.

It’s true that Biketown isn’t a public transport service like Velib is (despite the fact that the latter was a serious affect on the previous, as our publish from 2007 factors out). Biketown is a non-public service that occupies the general public area. For that motive, I nonetheless bear in mind these college years when biking was a part of my public companies. And when not simply me, however hundreds of different Parisians, may benefit from having an amazingly accessible bike service. I sit up for the day when Portland and Oregon (and the U.S.!) can create a distinction in how simply individuals — particularly those that can’t afford a bicycle or Biketown rental charges — can get entry to a public bike. This isn’t only a approach of giving reasonably priced entry to biking to everybody, it’s additionally an enormous step to making a extra accountable and sustainable public transportation system.

Bravo les français, qu’est ce-que j’aime une Vélib’! 

— Maritza Arango, @arango_mari on InstagramTwitter and TikTok.
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