It’s a cliche, I know, but sometimes you can tell a Tipping Point has been reached.
It seems to be happening – not for the first time – on the streets of Paris, where the ‘Velorution’ has taken over with astonishing speed. Here’s another description from the pages of Spiegel:

Paris has suddenly become the world capital of bike rentals. Nowhere else in the world has quite so many rental bikes standing at the ready: there will soon be over 20,000. And the fleet is really being put to use: commuters pedal from the Metro to the office, managers pop out in their lunch breaks to pick up groceries, tourists zigzag in every direction. More than six million rides have been clocked up in just three months — there is hardly a faster way to get through the legendary tangle of the French capital.
What the French call “la Vilorution” was launched on July 15 this year and it was an advertising company that came up with the idea.
Full article here.

The onus has shifted: why wouldn’t a city implement such a system?  I know Vancouver is looking at it – but if we don’t have something in place by the Olympics, we can hardly pretend that we take ‘green’ seriously, that we have any real pretense to being a sustainable city.


  1. The bike rental system is good and all, but what Vancouver really needs are separated bike paths and other infrastructure to support potential cyclists who are too nervous to ride in mixed traffic.
    In Paris, the bike rentals are just one piece of the puzzle. The city has a huge network bike lanes, some shared with buses and taxis, other dedicated. Paris has also implement several anti-car measures, such as eliminated free parking, reducing speed limits in some areas to 30 km/h, reconfiguring some neighbourhoods as “green districts,” giving road space to trams, bus lanes and sidewalks.

  2. I second Chris’s observation re. the helmets. I know that helmets can save lives, or at least something close to that. But the bike helmet is for me the biggest deterrent for getting on a bike.
    For one thing, I’d have to carry the damn thing with me after I lock up my bike (as a dog owner, I’m not going to leave a helmet locked, but dangling, from my bike within pissing range — I know what dogs get up to); if I rode a bike and wore a helmet, I would “worry” about my hair; the straps jangle against my earrings… And so on and so forth.
    Have I dug a hole deep enough for the pro-bike-helmet lobby to bury me in yet?
    Seriously, though: as a teenager, I rode my bike for years through downtown Victoria, on highways, through traffic of all sorts, and I fell off my bike several times, too. The most memorable incident was a head-over-heels one in Beacon Hill Park on a downward slope — ouch!
    Then I had children — in Boston — and we all wore helmets, because as a conscientous mom, how could I let them ride without helmets?
    Now they’re young teens, and …they ride, I walk. …because I don’t want to wear the damn helmet. I only wore it because of them, and I’ll be damned if I’ll put it on again now that they’re not young children anymore.
    Everytime I see a cycling-boosting article that’s out of Europe (or Asia, …or anywhere but North America), I see people hopping on and off their bikes without the aid of helmets, and I wonder: “why can’t we be that casual about it?”

  3. Jan Gehl made a fantastic presentation in Richmond last night. Copenhagen is now up to 36% of commuters on bicycles, and I’m willing to bet that no more than a small minority wear helmets. I personally don’t; I ride a 35 year old Raleigh women’s bike with no lights or safety gear whatsoever, but I am very careful because Vancouver is one of the least bike friendly cities that I’ve lived in. (Compare with my last place of residence Kobe, Japan – streets half the width with blind corners, yet I felt twice as safe!) I detest the bike culture in Vancouver too. Everyone “geared up” on their $2000 bicycles and yet compared to a city like Copenhagen where they are casual about biking (and helmet-less) we have almost no one riding to work! We need real bicycle solutions: bike boxes, separated right of ways, priority signals. THEN you’ll see some mode changes!

  4. I knew a kid when I was back in university who fell off his bike without a helmet and had brain injuries that changed his life forever. I am honestly just curious – why don’t people wear helmets? Are they not effective?

  5. People don’t wear helmets in cars (except for race car drivers) or when running or walking. It’s a continuum of risk. If you’re cruising around at 10-15 km/h, it’s pretty easy to avoid any tumbles, but if you’re hitting 60 km/h on a downhill, you’ll probably want a helmet.

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