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Theft and vandalism blight Paris bike-share system

Twitter user @Mr_Tom4

Paris’ bike-share system, Vélib’, is reportedly set to significantly reduce its fleet due to rampant theft and vandalism, with 9,000 bikes reported mangled or missing in 2012 alone.


There are apparently some in Paris who have not quite grasped the concept of the bike-share system, Vélib’. On the surface, it’s simple. You rent a bike and then return it to one of the city’s many docking stations when you’re finished. But that’s where things get tricky. Lots of bikes never seem to find their way back to the system – 9,000 vehicles a year, to be precise.

Vandalism and theft have been a major headache for Vélib’ ever since the system was launched in 2007. Sometimes bikes are forced from docking stations, or their tyres are slashed and their frames broken. Other times, they are stolen while a Vélib’ user ducks into a store, leaving their bicycle propped against a wall or locked to a pole.

JCDecaux, the France-based multinational that operates Vélib’, has fought back over the years by temporarily closing docking stations in neighbourhoods where bikes have a tendency to vanish or be destroyed. They have also encouraged the public to tweet or call a hotline whenever they come across an abandoned bicycle.

Despite JCDecaux’s efforts, the trend has continued. Vélib’ reported that 9,000 bikes were stolen or mangled in 2012 and that it looked as though 2013 would be much the same. With each bike valued at around 600 euros, that’s no small loss.

It now seems that JCDecaux is finally fed up with the problem. Instead of expanding the number of bikes in the streets of Paris as originally planned, the company has reportedly decided to scale back. While Vélib’ started out with a fleet of 20,600, there will now only be 14,000 vehicles available in the Paris region, according to French daily Le Monde, citing information gathered from JCDecaux by the website, run by a self-proclaimed "geek" who tracks statistics on the city-bike system.

JCDecaux did not respond to queries to confirm Le Monde's assertion before FRANCE24's article was published.

With 12,000 Vélib’ stations peppered around Paris and its surrounding suburbs, it looks as though bikes could soon become harder to come by in many neighbourhoods. An unfortunate consequence for those who have come to depend on the system to get around.

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