Recently, I spent a three-day layover in Paris on my way home from a good-will trip to Kenya. Yes, life is rough. It was my first time in Paris, and I fell in love immediately.
Everywhere I looked, I found another reason why it’s the place I will one day call home. And it wasn’t just the self-serve coffee machines available every 10 steps that won me over, although they did help.
I’m head over heels infatuated with Paris’ environmental advancements. Public transportation is ultra-efficient – straight out of one of my wildest dreams. The trains masterfully criss-cross the city. I never had to wait more than two minutes for the next train or walk more than a few blocks to the next station.
What really impressed me, however, was the Vélib self-service public bicycle transportation program. Renters can purchase single day, seven day, or one-year subscriptions, each allowing for unlimited 30-minute bike rides.
Swipe your membership card to pick up a bicycle at any one of the conveniently located self-service stations (one station every 300 meters, or less than two-tenths of a mile). Run your errands or cruise to a restaurant for dinner. Go anywhere, but just return it within 30 minutes to any other station in Paris. The 30 minute limit ensures more bicycles stay in circulation.
It’s affordable, too. A single day pass runs approximately 1â‚¬ ($1.44), seven days is 5â‚¬ ($7.20) and an entire year is only 29â‚¬ ($41.75).
The program was initiated in 2007 with 10,000 bicycles at 750 stations. Today there are over 20,000 bicycles at 1,450 stations, and Paris is developing a similar system for electric cars cited for launch by the end of 2009.
I’ve since found out that systems like Vélib are popping up all over Europe. Wouldn’t it be great if one popped up in a city near you?
Image: vive l’aire des arts