July 16 2014

Electric Bikes and Expanded Service: The Vélo’v of Lyon, Rhône-Alpes, France

A Vélo'v rental station in Lyon, FranceThe three-speed Vélo’v bikes are a familiar part of the urban landscape to Lyon’s inhabitants. This bicycle sharing service could adopt a new system due to changes being supported by the urban community of Grand Lyon. Firstly, they want to make the entire stock of Vélo’v bicycles electric, and there is also a desire to offer long-term rental for these electric bicycles.

With its red and grey color, sturdy handlebars, and wide frame, it is impossible to miss the Vélo’v in Lyon’s streets. When they were launched in May 2005, mayor Gérard Collomb intended for them to be a “daring gamble” that would allow him to speak of a “transformed city” before his re-election for a second term in 2008.

Celebrating the Bike

The Vélo’v recently celebrated its ninth anniversary. This has raised some questions about bicycle use, which has become a very in-fashion means of transportation, especially since the arrival of these ubiquitous, self-serve red bikes. In less than ten years, the stations have multiplied in Lyon and Villeurbanne: there is now a total of 345 of them for 4,000 Vélo’v bikes in the network. Is the Vélo’v working as planned? Gilles Vesco, vice-president of Grand Lyon and a delegate for new urban mobilities, has reassured us with supporting figures: “The Vélo’v represents 25% of bike traffic in Grand Lyon. About 20,000 trips are taken every day on average. There is an average turnover of five to six trips a day per bike, and 52,000 year-round subscribers.”A current Vélo'v rental bicycle in Lyon, France

Vélo’v: Expansion and Electrification from 2017 Onwards

The contract with JC Decaux will end in 2017, and Grand Lyon wants to take advantage of this opportunity to shift gears. First by adding 1,000 new Vélo’v bikes to go from 4,000 to 5,000 units, and then through investing in electric bikes. Today, Gilles Vesco has found himself in a difficult position because this project is just as risky as the arrival of the Vélo’v was in 2005. The official is approaching all fronts to avoid any setbacks:

“Before 2017 the idea would be to test an electric bike on the network. I have already sounded out JC Decaux’s opinion, and the business is considering this possibility. Today, they have a prototype ready to be manufactured a few months from now.” He wants to carry out a test, ideally in 2015, in order to receive feedback from users.

We will see, when drawing up specifications, if this idea is worth it or not. We also want to study the feasibility of the project. We are not going to do this test while other offers are being made. This does not necessarily represent an advantage for JC Decaux in relation to other future candidates.”

Electric Bikes By Way of Long-term Rental

Despite the Vélo’v, the offer remains incomplete in Lyon. The absence of long-term rental times is a drawback, especially for students. Today it is impossible to rent a bike for two weeks, a month, or even six months. Without subscribing to the Vélo’v service for a year, there is nothing else to do except take out your wallet to buy a bike. Other major cities have already taken the plunge, such as in Nantes, Bordeaux, or Grenoble.

This would not be the case if Collomb had respected his commitment. When debates about bike policies were underway in July, 2009, Lyon’s mayor planned to make 10,000 long-term rental bikes available. Since then, the idea has been forgotten. In 2014, municipal elections have put the project back on the table. Gilles Vesco has declared:

“The idea is to make electric bicycles available for long-term rental. We are going to convert to electric immediately because it is a way of transforming the bike into a true means of transportation, just like the Vélo’v has done. And also, it is a means of transportation that allows you to go further than is possible with other transportation methods. It also allows us to make improvements for active senior citizens.”

For Vesco, two scenarios seem likely: “We either make two different bids, one for the Vélo’v and another for long-term rental, or we make long-term rental directly included in the bid for renewing the Vélo’v contract.

Do electric bicycles have the potential to transform urban mobility, or should they be considered novel innovations that offer few advantages over traditional bicycles?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Marcus Khoury

Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing to his experiences with a variety of cultures, languages, and environments, he has always been keenly interested in how the exchange of ideas between different cities, regions, and countries helps to shape both physical and cultural landscapes. His linguistic background, in addition to his interest in the diversity of international urban environments and experiences, has led Marcus to fill the position of French Language Translator at The Grid, where he will be translating and presenting French language material involving environmental design.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 at 9:03 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Government/Politics, Marcus Khoury, Social/Demographics, Transportation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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