Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Boris bike vs. the French vélib -unfair comparison?

I've meant to post on this for quite a while, being a bit of a pedal addict and a huge propoenent of common-sense-commuting, i.e. not taking the car when possible (unfortunately, I'm most often defeated by our antiquated transport system).

Anyway, having tried the parisian Vélib' (and in passing got lost in Paris and almost missed my Eurostar), I thought I'd give a go to the Boris Bike. Nada, the scheme is closed and you need a key. Yep, a physical key that's sent to your house. By Royal Mail that is. Antiquated meets modern I suppose: who on earth at Tfail thought about this?

Marta TrebickiSo I've registered and will tell you in a while which is a better ride. On the looks, some have already claimed Boris Bikes to be prettier (a nice chick riding one helps I suppose?). Others have pointed out that Boris Bikes lack a basket and a lock...

Looks aside, from my humble point of view, the key points are pricing, availability and useability.
  • On useability of the scheme, the Parisian Vélib' is dead easy: you can subscribe with their equivalent of the Oyster card (the "pass Navigo") or just plonk your credit card in there. As for the London version, see above -you need a key! Paris 1-London 0.
  • Availability: I hears complaints in Paris and they surely had teething problems at the start but they seem to have the situation under control now, despite heavy vandalism (in two years, they've had to fix 3/4 of the bikes in circulation and over 15% have gone missing). And Paris being hillier than London, they've had to give some free credit to those dropping off bikes on top of the Montmartre hill. I'm not sure about London, the scheme being closed for now, but one thing is irking: they've put the bike stations at least 300 m away from any rail station. And they've also under-estimated the necessary shuffling to replenish deserted locations: BBC - Mind The Gap: 'White Van Man' haunts re-distribution of Boris bikes. Overall though, Boris Bikes are no match for the Velib': there are 750 stations in Paris (1750 with the suburbs), stocked with 20,000 cycles versus 315 and 5,000. Paris 2-London 0.
  • On pricing, it would not be massively different with each getting the first 30 mn free and then the first hour is EUR1 and GBP1, the first two hours are EUR7 and GBP6. What's different though is that you need to pay an access charge of £1 per 24 hours in London. That just makes it less intuitive, so I'm afraid London has to loose the last set as well. While we're on the subject of money, Paris did not invest taxpayer's money while Londoners forked £140... Who's more Socialist, Boris or Bertrand? Paris 3-London 0.
What about you, what do you think?


NB: check also the comparison on Pink Sauce, there's a nice table on that post.

3 comments:

Helen said...

I've been covering the extensive "teething troubles" of the London scheme on www.boriswatch.co.uk

Zefrog said...

thanks for the link :) - (it's Pink Sauce, not Pink Saddle, btw :) )

Ludovic Windsor said...

Hi Helen,

Good blog, agree the bike scheme is not good value for money, especially comparing it to the Vélib' : The Mayor’s Cycle Hire Scheme – Part V, Poor Value For Money

Zefrog,
Have made the correction :-)