Sunday, 5 August 2007

Michael Raeburn Field Tests Paris Vélib' Bicycle

Ever the early adapter, Michael Raeburn wanted to be the first to try the new Vélib' bicycles while he was in Paris last week. Vélib' bicycle rental areas were placed all over Paris, in hopes that people would use bikes instead of cars, thus addressing Paris traffic and pollution problems. We are seeing people on these bikes all over town - they were immediately popular.

To rent a bike, all you do is put your credit card or a Vélib' card into the machine and you can rent the bike free for the first 1/2 hour and then for only 1 Euro an hour after that. (Check out the great explanation of how Vélib' works, in English, on the Polly Vous Francais blog.) Since there are so many stations available, with proper planning, you may never have to pay for your ride.

When we were expressing awe about them recently with Jose Baptista, Triomf's sound engineer, he said, "Yes, but you can only use a credit card, or you can get a Vélib' card but you must have a bank account to do so. The rental machines don't take cash or coins. So that means that poor people can't rent them." Interesting point. We tried to rent a bike with an American MasterCard debit card but it didn't work, nor did an American Express card. So we may be out of luck also.

This was Michael's first ride on one of the bikes. He and Lyndon Plant, Triomf's executive producer, used the bikes to get to a meeting with the French accountant for Triomf. Michael customarily bikes all over Paris on a daily basis, whereas Lyndon, who lives in London, was more in the mode of the typical tourist. Both of them ended up quite delighted, a near-universal experience, if the faces of all those riders on the street are to be believed.

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