Open source peer-to-peer transportation systems

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I’m building a list of reactions to my Paris visit, touching on cultural differences in the world of email, open source, the fascinating things that various folks have done with Thunderbird in France, imperialism, and other topics, but I wanted to make sure to show this picture. There’s a transportation strike in Paris this week (great timing on my part, as usual), which makes getting around a bit harder than usual, although I tend to walk around as much as is reasonable anyway given how nice it is to do so in Paris.

Today though, I was running late for an appointment, so I hopped on one of these puppies:


These slightly frumpy 3-gear city bikes are some of the 20,000 “Velib” that a company has placed in 1000 different locations throughout Paris in exchange for advertising rights. The system is optimized for using bikes as a quick and easy way to move around short distances. With a subscription (ranging from 1 euro for a day to 29 euros for a year), trips of 1/2 hour or less are free, with costs climbing for longer rentals, thereby ensuring that people don’t hog the bikes. Apart from reports of some people using padlocks to “reserve” the bikes in anticipation of the strike, it seems to work great. The stations I see tend to have at least some bikes in them (this one was full, which is actually a problem if you’re trying to return a bike). On Wednesday there were 159,000 trips recorded .

It was a fun bike ride. In addition to the simple pleasure of zipping past cars through sunny Paris streets, there’s something about riding a “Velib” for the first time which reminds me of using open source software for the first time. A joyful personal experience based on a structured shared asset, with positive environmental consequences.

2 thoughts on “Open source peer-to-peer transportation systems

  1. jmdesp

    Unfortunately the IT infrastructure of the Velib is 100% based on Microsoft OS and solutions.

    Well at least, when it doesn’t work, you can say it’s Microsoft’s fault. :-)

  2. David, I’m just catching up with your blog. I was in Paris last August for the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K again. You may recall the last one was in 2003, during the brutal heat wave. We checked out the city bikes while we were in town, but it seemed redundant to actually ride one since we’d shipped our bikes all the way to France.

    I recommended the city bikes to a friend who visited Paris last month during the transport strike, but she was afraid to ride a bike in traffic! :-0

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