The New York Times has a front page story on the Paris bike sharing scheme, Vélib‘. According to the article 80% of the system’s 20,600 bicycles are either stolen or broken. The article suggests that the vandalism stems from class-based resentment–suburban youth view the system, which is popular with Paris’ cosmopolitan young professionals and tourists, as a frivolous investment that does little to help mobility for underprivileged communities in the region.
There may be something to that explanation; however, the Times article brings to mind an almost-identical story done by the BBC in February. After that article appeared, bike sharing advocates suggested that the notion of a failed and dysfunctional Velib system is highly exaggerated and had more to do, perhaps, with the operator’s desire to negotiate a better deal with the municipal government.
As similar systems come online and evolve in Montreal, Minneapolis, Boston, and the District of Columbia, it will be interesting to see if/how vandalism emerges in these other contexts. The Bike Sharing Blog, out of Washington is a good place to follow all the happenings in this growing transport sector.