Vélib was free of charge that day since the level of pollution was above the Health organisations recommended thresholds.
Paris has changed a lot during the last couple of years. One of the changes I - Clotilde - noticed during these very sunny and warm days of September is the number of cyclists in the streets. Bicycle users are everywhere in the French capital. Most of all, cyclists can be young students as well as retired people; women or men; they wear suits, nice clothes and only a few wear an helmet... they are Citizen Cyclists. They bike to work and do not seem so afraid of crossing major car-centric intersections. They look like all the Parisians, they want to get around town as fast as possible. They are go-getter, intrepid, they live with risks around them but remain chic.
But can Paris reach 15% of modal share by 2020 without questioning its bicycle infrastructure?
A little thought from my side: Bicycle users are already increasing in high number out there, so hurry up and build wide, separated, well-maintained bike tracks for them if you want to reach your goal.
I had a discussion with two very different people who cycle often even though the bike infrastructures are limited. Either complaining or not.
François riding a Vélib
"I'm from Paris. I ride a Vélib very frequently. Let's say every day. Actually, it depends of the weather, it depends of the hills and of the length of the trip. If I go to a meeting on the other side of Paris, I take the metro. Generally speaking, I cycle around 15 or 20 minutes."
"I see more and more people cycling in Paris. Why did you decide to use this mode of transportation?
"It's clearly because of the Vélib service. It's make it's much easier to get around by bike."
"Do you want to buy your own bicycle?"
"Definitely not. I don't want to bother myself with a bicycle and the Vélib subscription is cheap."
"What do you thing about the bicycle infrastructure?"
"There are OK. I'm aware that cycling in Paris in dangerous. Every morning when I'm biking to work, I'm thinking that I should be more cautious. I think about my children. It's like leaving for the battlefield.
"I don't get it. You're glad to cycle, you even cross one of the busiest intersection in Paris while eating your croissant but you have the feeling that cycling is dangerous...."
"Let's imagine that the City of Paris decide to invest significantly in bicycle infrastructure, would you agree?"
"No, the infrastructure are good enough."
Parisians seems to be more confident riding Vélib now. They even eat their croissant while cycling.
Mathilde riding her personal bike
"I'm from Paris. I cycle almost every day. I work at home but when I go to a meeting, most of the time I go by bike. I avoid the metro as much as possible."
"In which district of Paris do you cycle?"
"I'm a kamikaze cyclist and I go across Paris even. I live in north-east of Paris and go often in the south to work. In this case, I cycle 15 kilometres."
"What do you think about the bicycle infrastructures?"
" There is a lack of bike lanes. Most of all, there are not well-designed. Sometimes, I avoid cycling on the bike lanes since there are full of waste. When the machine clean the street for the cars all the waste are pushed on the bike lanes."
Compare to Copenhageners, Parisians are used to cycle in dense car traffic but they stop as soon as the weather is deteriorating.