PARIS (Reuters) - Grabbing a bicycle from a docking station and riding the streets of Paris used to be one of the city’s many charms, but the once-loved Velib system has fallen into disarray and some new dockless bike-share schemes are struggling to survive.
FILE PHOTO: An employee of Velib' Metropole self-service public bike by Smovengo loads a bicycle onto a truck at a distribution point in Paris, France, April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
After it launched in 2007, Velib quickly became a hit, signing up more than 250,000 users who could took advantage of 20,000 bikes around the city. But advertising company JCDecaux’s concession to run Velib expired last year.
A French-Spanish consortium called Smovengo won the tender to run the service for the next 15 years, but it struggled to meet a January deadline to install new docking stations and has battled a raft of technology problems, leaving users frustrated.
At the same time, four dockless bike-share schemes, all run by Asian operators, have popped across the city, offering users the ability to unlock a freestanding bike via an App for a fee.
While initially popular thanks to their novelty and Velib’s problems, some of those schemes are now running into trouble, with users unhappy with the quality of the bikes, many of which have been vandalized or thrown in the Seine.
Singapore’s oBike this week became the second of the schemes to give up on Paris, which wants to be an urban leader in green mobility. OBike officials did not return calls but a former official said key staff in France had left the company.
In February, Hong Kong startup Gobee.bike halted its operations due to theft and vandalism.
China-owned bike-share firms Ofo and Mobike remain active and have been steadily growing their numbers thanks in part to Smovengo’s struggle to get fully up and running.
Laurent Kennel, general manager at Ofo France, said the firm now had about 2,500 of its bright yellow b