When I finally returned to Paris in February 2011, I was pleased to find that the Vélib’ bicycle transit system was in good shape and still going strong after three-and-a-half years of operation. I bought a weekly ticket and traveled around Paris exclusively by Vélib’. Didn’t use the Métro once the whole time.
Like most Vélib’ users, I am in the habit of taking six or seven seconds to check the tires, chain, brakes and sometimes lights before I borrow one of the bikes. Back in 2008 I often had to reject a bike and try another, but in 2011 I saw very little evidence of vandalism. Occasionally there was a bike with a flat tire at one of the stations, but no bikes were smashed up, no chains ripped out, nothing.
Of course, I didn’t know if vandalism was really on the decline or if the JCDecaux company had just gotten better at whisking damaged bikes out of sight before anyone noticed.
While I was changing Vélib’ bikes one night at station 8045 on Avenue Montaigne, near Place d’Alma, I took this photo of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night with a revolving spotlight at the top.
My astronomer friends would no doubt castigate this as unnecessary “light pollution”, but I thought it looked rather nice on a foggy February night.
I must admit that light pollution was not a problem I had been very concerned about in earlier years, but some people say it is a tremendous waste of money and energy to light up the sky (or the bottoms of the clouds), when with proper lighting fixtures we could make the light shine only where it is really needed and leave the sky dark so we could see the stars.
The reason I was changing bikes was that my free half-hour was almost up, so I docked my bike here, waited two minutes and then took another one. (Or the same one, I forget. You have to wait two minutes either way.)
In September 2011 we had a large and very successful VirtualTourist meeting in Paris. Again I took out a weekly subscription to Vélib’, and used the bikes to get to and from our various activities, for instance Paul Smith’s walking tour of Montmartre, starting from Amélie’s café in Rue Lepic. (Thanks again to Sonja for the photos of me with my Vélib’ bike.)
My photos (and Sonja’s) in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2020.
Next: Vélib’ 2012 (coming soon).
See also: A rainy day at Place de Roubaix.