Firm behind Paris bike hire chaos slapped with million-euro bill

Paris's public cycle hire company said Friday it would hit its contractor with a one-million-euro bill for a chaotic rollout of new bikes that has infuriated cyclists.

Firm behind Paris bike hire chaos slapped with million-euro bill
Photo: AFP
The grey Velib bikes — usually ubiquitous across the French capital — have been virtually absent for weeks because of the botched handover from previous contractor JCDecaux to Franco-Spanish firm Smovengo.
Autolib' Velib' Metropole, the public-private consortium that runs the scheme, pronounced itself “dissatisfied” and said it would penalise Smovengo a million euros ($1.22 million) as set out in its contract.
Velib will also refund its roughly 300,000 subscribers for the month of January as a “gesture of compensation” for the delays, the consortium's chief Catherine Baratti-Elbaz said.

The CEO of Smovengo which operates the Velib bicycle-sharing service talks to the press at a Velib station still under construction in Paris. Photo: AFP

Further discounts may be offered if the problems are not fixed next month, she added.
In October, Paris city hall announced a snazzy redesign of the bikes that would result in a third of them going electric, with the grand re-launch taking place on January 1.
But as of Friday, only 113 of the bike system's docking stations were working — well short of the 600 that had been promised by the New Year, with 1,400 supposed to be working by the end of March.
The disruption began before Christmas and the delays have enraged cyclists, many of whom rely on the hire bikes for their commute.


Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

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