With gas prices the way they are and the
increased number of cars in the inner city, a great change is taking place.
Cities the world over are setting up public bicycle rentals to save people
the expense of driving a car or bur. It’s healthier and pollution free.
Traditionally, the French offered cars
for economy. Do you remember the Deux Cheveau? In its day it was the answer
to cheap travel.
Then in more recent times a tiny space
and gas saving Smart-car took its place. It too was the answer for a while.
I first saw them in Paris but they soon arrived in North America too.
I tried it out. Cute? Yes, but not for
me. Age, size and habit play heavily on decisions. I enjoy bike riding
better, as long as there’s no rain. And if there’s a sudden down pour.
Note the bikes…they are rentals and they
You need go very far to return the bike
and save time charges
But things were about to change. Using
Lyon as an example, Paris embarked on an ambitious project of bicycle
rental. The idea caught on and has been expanded to the point that there are
now over 20,000 ‘velos’ on the streets at 14,000 stations. They are called
‘Velib’ which is a contraction of velo and liberation. It works for me. This
means that you can go from one place to another under your own muscle power
and leave the bike at your destination. The first half hour is free.
You can use a credit card as long as it
had a European tab on it. Check before you leave home. There are enough
bikes at each depot so you won’t be disappointed. For one year, one week or
24 hours, bank cards are optional.
Of course the city has created bicycle
paths in many places and since there is no restriction as to where you can
drive, you can test your skill and nerves by riding around the Arc de
Triomphe, which is one of the most hazardous places to drive in all of
Lyon there is a section of the city built high on a hill. People frequent
the ‘velo’ depots but rarely to ride back up. There are trucks that
transport bikes to the depots atop the city.
Here, on the banks of the Rhone or Soane,
office workers and tourists vie for their chance to exercise, see the city
and save on gas or metro fares. They also get a good feeling, knowing they
are not polluting.
Both Lyon and Paris are beautiful cities
and often, tourists arrive at a train station and rather than look for a
taxi or bus, they get their velo nearby. I’ve seen visitors at both Part
Dieu in Lyon and Gare de Lyon in Paris, drive off with a back pack to see
the city by velo. What a great idea for those who respect the thousands of
Many other cities have followed suit as
the city fathers and private advertising companies join forces to offer the
Is it the future for all cities? I think
not. Maybe Vienna , Brussels, Madrid or Orleans are good for the system
but I happen to live in a city that established bike paths years ago but
during the winter months they are not practical. One rarely sees a bicycle
in Montreal from late November to early April.
Try riding a bicycle in these
Besides, North Americans enjoy bicycles
for fun and relaxation but the temperament is car based. Unfortunately it’s
taking the rising gas prices to change people’s minds. The change may be to
smaller cars or hybrids but I’m not yet convinced. There are still large
SUV’s and vans on the road here.
The idea started in Lyon in 2005 and has
spread rapidly in Europe.
The velos are available 24 hours a day.
The stations are about 300 meters apart. The instructions are written in
eight languages. A number of trucks move bikes during the nights to empty
stations to ensure that there’s a bike ready for your journey to work in the
morning. Since the first half hour is free, you’re transportation for a
short distance saves car, bus or metro travel.
People used to just fasten their bikes
to a post. Vandalism often tempted theft or a sadist’s form of graffiti.
Cyclists are still instructed to wear
helmets and drive carefully. The bike path helps as the city’s car numbers
increase. I’d hate to think of what European cities would look like if the
had the monstrous number of bicycles you see in some Chinese cities.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)