The enormous cleaning operation at the Canal Saint-Martin has unearthed several treasures, from countless empty wine bottles to shopping trolleys, toilets and even a handgun, spotted by The Local.
Parisians have flocked to the banks of the canal – made famous by the movie Amélie – eager to see what curiosity the workers would fish out of the waters next.
But one particular item has cropped up surprisingly often: the Velib' bicycle.
So far, 98 of Paris' rental bicycles have been found in the depths of the canal, according to Albert Asséraf, Director of Strategy at JCDecaux (the company responsible for the Velib' service), and he said that reaching 100 was not out of the question.
Asséraf told the Liberation newspaper: “We may still find two or three more, there’s still a little bit of water.”
He added that most of the bikes were so corroded that they wouldn't be hitting the roads again, although the team is already working to salvage any parts that can be reused.
It remains unknown how and why the bikes end up in the canal, particularly considering that users need to pay for an account and usually leave a deposit before even being able to access them.
But treating a Velib' with disrespect is nothing new in Paris, where around 19,000 are stolen each year. While the majority are found, around 27 percent of those recovered are so badly damaged they have to be destroyed.
JCDecaux has worked with city authorities to introduce anti-theft measures, including reinforced locks and search teams dedicated to tracking down stolen bikes. The company has also had to use CCTV to combat vandalism to the bikes.
In an effort to stop Parisians from taking the Velib' scheme for granted, Paris introduced workshops titled 'You break it, you repair it' in January 2013. Young people are invited to two-day workshops where they join the Velib' maintenance crew in repairing the bicycles.
Speaking on behalf of the mayor of Paris, Nadhéra Beletreche said that the programme was to be extended in order to educate all users, not just minors, of the need for respect of public property.
She said that the scheme worked “by making them aware that users are penalized for their behaviour and that JCDecaux employees must repair the consequences of their degradation.”
Paris' Velib' system has inspired copycat services all over the world. Over 20,000 bikes are available at locations throughout the city, where tourists and locals alike can simply turn up and rent them using a one-off ticket (€1.70 for a day) or subscription service (€29 for a year of unlimited use). The first 30 minutes of use are free of charge each time.
One of the bicycles is rented every second in Paris and the recent launch of Mini-Velib' for children shows the success of the scheme.