Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Velib versus Boris Bikes

Tory Troll has posted a helpful little table first published in the Evening Standards which provides figures of comparisons between the Paris and London cycle hire schemes.

Strangely the ES manages to claim that the London scheme compares favourably with the Paris one (the biggest such scheme in the world). Judge for yourself.

VelibLondon Cycle Hire
Number of bikes
Initially 10,648, now 20,600
Docking stations
315 (400 originally planned)
Area covered
90Km2 in 20 arrondissements
Bike weight
Subscribers in 1st year
As yet unknown (30,000 in 1st week)
€90m from JCDecaux (about £75m)
£140m from taxpayer + £25m from Barclays sponsorship
Annual subscription
€29 (about £21)
(I have added/amended some of the info).

Still according to the ES, and because obviously too much positive bias towards Boris wouldn't be on, the "French prefer our ‘stylish and beautiful’ Boris bikes to Velib". Personally, I can see very little difference between both bikes, apart from the colour, they look pretty much the same.

And finally, there is already a conspiracy theory around the schemes.

View my growing number of posts about the scheme here.


  1. Style-wise, the Velib is much the nicer. But that shouldn't be surprising - it's French! Still, if the French can successfully run the Velib network with a 10:1 subscribers-to-bikes ration, while Boris's Bikes have a 5:1 ratio and are a nightmare, what does that say about boris's bikes?

  2. Great post, I've done a comparison of my own here: http://richmondtransits.blogspot.com/2010/09/boris-bike-vs-french-velib-unfair.html

  3. The staffing issue comes as no great surprise all JC Decaux press releases on their many schemes indicate a ratio of 1 technician to 50-60 bikes. Clear Channel who have been doing this for the longest time in Europe (since 1997) run Barcelona with a ratio of 1 to 100. The cycle trade reported that Serco had sent 4 staff for full ACT training and were internally training a further 26 staff in the months before the London scheme went live.

    The analysis commissioned for the scheme clearly stated that the tidal flows of rail and other commuters would cause problems. A balanced system requires around 50% more docking points than bikes in circulation to ensure spaces are available. A tidal flow system needs nearer to twice the provision of docking points.

    The Clear Channel systems are on their 5th or 6th generation of bikes and docking systems The Bixi system is only the second to go live - the first in Montreal was commissioned after the TfL decision was made, but the London installation required some significant changes, notably dropping the wireless palletised docking points which can be unloaded full or empty from a truck in under a minute, ready for use (in Montreal the bike and docking points come off the streets in winter when the city often gets a substantial dump of snow). London required the docking points to be fixed and hard wired, making any balancing intervention a triple handling exercise - transfer of bikes to a vehicle, transport of bike, and transfer back to a docking point.

    There is a solution, which can use the existing bikes as used by the system in Montpelier - this is to have more than one tariff, and mode of use. You have the existing 'bike sharing' tariff with the incentive to keep bikes circulating, and then you have an OV-Fiets model where a commuter hires a bike for the whole working day, parking it at work and returning it in the evening.

    OV-Fiets is a Dutch system owned and operated by the Dutch rail operator for the Dutch rail passengers, who pay an annual 'registration fee and less than £2 per day for a simple basic bike that they can collect from the station. We do actually have a UK equivalent - potentially even better - where Stagecoach hires folding bikes to season ticket holders to keep out for up to a year, bringing the bikes in only for servicing. But the practical solution is to deliver a basic bike for use between 08.00 and 18.00.

    THis can be done with minimal fuss by using palletised bikes and docking points that are stored in places like the mothballed car park under the Eurostar station at Waterloo, or the old GPO roadways at Euston, full pallets are rolled out to a collection point, replacing these as they empty. The hired bikes are parked in the massive cycle parking capacity installed in many London office buildings (Swiss REA is reported to have a 600-bike facility), and further capacity can be created using spare space in Central London Car Parks now vacated due to the C-Charge. At the end of the day bikes are returned to the pallets in the reverse of the morning process moving filled pallets to the storage pound and placing fresh empty ones to be filled as the bikes come back.

    One long established London Cycle Hire operation indicates that a long term contract hire rate of around £2 per day for a basic utility bike is viable, and selling the branding of the bikes has delivered a means to defray operating costs for Copenhagen's bike system for the past 15 years offering a variety of 'sponsors' who are now delivered by media operator J C Decaux.

  4. Tavdy - Users per bike upper limit around 20 and 15 is healthy, More than 20 and the system starts to creak.

    Likewise hires per bike per day - once you hit 20 on a well balanced system the level of service starts to go down dramatically - although Lyon hit 25 hires/bike/day during a bus strike. Lyon has 1000 bike sponsored by HSBC - but not whole fleet.


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