The title of this post may be a little deceiving, because we did not actually take advantage of the ubiquitous transport-sharing programs in Paris. We were able to walk almost everywhere; when distances were too far, we either took a bus or the Metro. That said, the bike-sharing program was incredible.
Well over half the bikes we saw people riding on the street were the distinctive bikes of the “Velib” program. Everyone was cycling, people of all ages, in all ranges of dress. Women in high heels and suits, old men in their berets and vests. The program is just six years old, but with around 14,000 bikes and oodles of riders, it’s clearly a success story. We’ll hope that New York and other efforts can duplicate that success.
A newer program is “Autolib,” a car-sharing program. We didn’t see as many of those stations, but note that the cars in the picture below are both (1) small and cute, good for negotiating city traffic and all of those bicycles; and (2) electric, charging up at the street. If we’d been in Paris longer, we would have had to sign up just for the fun of driving an electric car.
Some of the cities we traveled to in Germany also had bike-sharing programs at the train stations, sponsored by the German Rail system (Deutsche Bahn). The bikes were similar in style, with an extra kid seat (or maybe passenger, if the person is small), but I never saw any of these actually being ridden around town.