Bike Rentals, a fashion in Paris

In my schooldays in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, bicycles were the prime mode of transport for the middle-class. The affluent among my class-mates came to school in own bikes. My parents didn’t get me one till I joined college in New Delhi. By which time (this, in late 50s) bicycling went out of fashion.

With aggressive marketing of Luna, scooty, and other two-wheelers bicycles became a poor man’s vehicle. We, who considered ourselves better-off on the social scale, preferred the rush, long wait and uncertainty of public transport to a bicycle for travelling to work. Coming to office on a bike wasn’t an executive thing. Clerks biked to work.

Today, the good old bike could be an answer to traffic congestion and carbon emission in Bangalore,if only office-goers and company executives take to the bike in a big way, making bicycling a fashionable mode of transit, as they have done in Paris. One would like to see Anil Kumble and Shivrajkumar going to work on a bike;see Rahul Dravid with a bicycle in lifestyle media ads. Major IT companies – Infosys, IBM, Yahoo and others – could promote use of bicycles.

They could cut-back on car allowance and offer, instead, bicycle bonus to employees. And those who give up their cars for bicycles could be considered for telecommuting. Maybe IIM-B students could take up a project to explore the prospects of putting in place (are you and your project group reading this, Reema Mahajan?) bicycle rentals service in Bangalore on the pattern of Velib’ of Paris.

The New York Times, in a recent articleA New Fashion Catches On in Paris: Cheap Bicycles Rentals – gives us an idea of how the system works. Maybe we can’t replicate it in all aspects, for Bangalore isn’t quite Paris; but the concept could be emulated.

The highlights of the Paris bicycle rentals:
1)The bikes are cheap to rent, as they are subsidized by advertising; some 20,600 bicycles are for hire, from 1,450 rental stations.
2)Annual subscription (29 euros) lets user take a bike whenever needed for 30 minutes at a time without extra-charge. It is reckoned 96 percent of all rides are less than 30-minute duration (and hired bikes can be returned at any convenient location).
3)Bicycles theft rate – 15 percent in the first year of operation. About 1,500 bikes a day come in for repairs.
4)Bikes can be rented on hourly basis, for a day, and also on weekly basis.
5)The 10-year contract for running bicycle rentals has been taken up, not by a transport contractor but a major PR and advertising company – JCDecaux.

Cross-filed in Giving It A Shot