(Jul 16, 2007)

Paris starts new bike service to reduce traffic and emissions

By Angela Doland
From AP

PARIS (AP) - The City of Light wants to be the city that bikes.

Paris City Hall launched a new bicycle service Sunday, with more than 10,600 posted at 750 stations all over the city and prices starting at a euro ($1.36) for a one-day pass. Users can take a bike and put it back at any station around town.

The service - called Velib', a combination of the words ''velo'' (bike) and ''liberte'' (liberty) - is an initiative pushed by Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who has made fighting traffic and pollution his No. 1 goal. In another popular eco-friendly project, Delanoe bars vehicles every summer from a quay of the Seine River and turns it into a beach complete with sand and palm trees.

For Parisians, the bicycle service means another public transport option, in addition to the subway, buses and trams, Delanoe said.

''In the morning, you can go to work in the tram and come home by bike, it depends on the weather, it depends on your mood and on your friends,'' Delanoe said at the launch.

Business was brisk the first day. Parisian Sandrine Millet checked out her local station near the Champs-Elysees avenue and discovered only four bicycles left at a stand of 27. She hopped on one of the gray, 3-speeds and said it was ''very comfortable.''

''It's perfect for short rides, when you want to get somewhere fast, but don't have the courage to walk,'' she said.

Velib' is also accessible to tourists. The service is offered in eight languages, and its machines accept foreign credit cards.

Paris is following the example of other European cities with inexpensive bicycle services, including Stockholm, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona and Copenhagen.

Delanoe has promoted biking heavily since taking office in 2001, and the city now has 370 kilometers (230 miles) of bike lanes. Velib' is due for expansion: By the year's end, Paris says it will nearly double the number of Velib' bicycles and stations.

A yearlong pass costs 29 euros ($39.50), while a one-day pass costs 1 euro _ about $1.36 _ and a seven-day ticket goes for 5 euros ($6.80).

The project is designed for short rides.

The first half-hour after users pick up a bike is always free, with an extra euro tacked on for the first additional half-hour, two euros for the second and four euros for every extra half-hour from then on.

Anyone who does not know the sliding price scale and uses a bike for a long joyride is in for a surprise: A one-day pass plus a 6-hour ride costs a whopping 40 euros ($55).

The city is encouraging bikers and drivers to be careful: Last week, a cyclist was killed in a crash in Paris.

A new team at city hall has been studying the 120 most dangerous traffic spots in the capital and is working on ideas to make them safer. Paris is also distributing pocket copies of road safety rules to Velib' riders - but bikers have to supply their own helmets.

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