Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme loses users amid technical problems

Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme loses users amid technical problems
The Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme in Paris, France © Sam Nabi

The Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme in Paris, France, has seen a significant drop in users following a series of problems during the handover to a new operator.

The Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme launched in 2007, and was operated for ten years by JCDecaux. As one of Europe’s first bike-sharing systems, the scheme paved the way for other cities to introduce similar projects encouraging people to switch to greener forms of transport.

However, following the scheme’s success, a tender was issued last year for a new operator. French-Spanish consortium Smovengo won a deal for €700m to operate the service for the next 15 years, according to The Guardian.

The company promised to introduce a number of technological innovations to the service, including replacing old bicycles and docking stations, electrifying one third of the fleet, and enabling internet of things communication and connectivity in some bikes.

What went wrong?

The first problems experienced while upgrading the service were delays in replacing old docking stations, many of which have already been removed. Smovengo had stated a target of introducing 1,400 of its new docking stations by the beginning of the year, but so far less than 50% of this target has been reached.

Further, some of the docking stations have encountered significant electrical problems and other technical issues, and with technicians on strike over working conditions, Smovengo has been slow to address the concerns of users.

What has happened as a result?

The company has been issued with millions of euros in fines, and what’s more, subscribers have been steadily departing the scheme. The number of users of the Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme has dropped from 290,000 last year to 219,000, with users reporting that they have left the service because of the reduction in availability of bikes and technical faults that have caused disruption to journeys.

Smovengo has already promised that it will set up an additional 800 docking stations before the end of June, and will connect more of these stations to the electrical grid in a bid to improve the electrification and sustainability of the service.

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