Libération and The Guardian heap praise on Lyon's rent-a-bike scheme which has 1500 digitally trackable bikes, 15 000 registered users and 100 rack locations. The bikes cost one euro per hour, with the first half-hour free. The scheme - operated by billboard and bus shelter company JC Decaux - has been an instant success. 90 percent of the journeys on Vélo'v bikes last less than 30 minutes enabling hirers to speed around the city centre.

Lyon’s bike hire scheme is roaring success

The Vélo’v scheme was launched three months ago. Such has been the scheme’s success it is being expanded so that by 2007 there will be 4000 bicycles and up to 400 racks in the city, one roughly every 300 metres.

"Very quickly, we’ve moved from being a curiosity to a genuine new urban transport mode," Gilles Vesco of the city council told the Libération newspaper.

City bike schemes have been tried before, but with limited success. Amsterdam’s ‘White Bikes’, designed with non-standadrd components so they would be unattractive to thieves instead ended up in Amsterdam’s canals. And see the link below for the ambitious Geordie bike scheme, scuppered when NewcastleGateshead failed to win the European City of Culture prize.

According to The Guardian, the Lyon scheme makes users register in advance so that their personal details are on record, and they are then issued with a security code and a prepaid card, which they can top up at each rack’s computer terminal.

"Our success reflects a cultural shift that you could call collective individualism," Vesco told Libération.

"Everyone chooses their own destination, route and timetable, but they use a collective means of transport."

Each time a bike is returned to a rack the brakes, tyre pressure, gears and lights are digitally checked and the results sent to the control centre; any malfunction means the bike is not offered for rent, said The Guardian.…/0,,1547661,00.html

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