Paris Becomes First City to Extend Bike Sharing to Children

It’s difficult to know how Londoners would react to the sight of a Boris Bike with stabilisers, but in France, Parisians have welcomed the launch of a new cycle hire scheme that encourages children as young as two to hop on the saddle.

The P’tit Vélib program, which is an extension of the city’s pioneering Vélib cycle hire network, launched on Wednesday with 300 bikes for children located at five green and pedestrianised spaces across the city.

Paris City Hall says it hopes the programme, which it describes as the first of its kind in the world, will familiarise young Parisians with environment-friendly transport while encouraging a new generation to discover the pleasure of cycling, “because good habits start early”.

In a written introduction to the scheme, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said: “P’tit Vélib takes another step in opening up our city to all the children who live there or visit it. Introducing the smallest children to this most ecologically friendly and convivial mode of transportation will help make the Paris of the future more open to clean, shared and low-carbon transport.”

The new bikes, developed and manufactured by JCDecaux have been designed to withstand heavy use while maintaining the style of traditional Parisian bicycles. Four sizes of bike are available to hire, including a pedal-less balance bike for children aged two to four, a bike with stabilisers for ages three to five and two larger bikes for children who have mastered the art of riding on two wheels.

Rather than being designed with the bright colours and patterns usually associated with children’s bikes, the range is very much in line with the “clunky grey” aesthetic of the adult Vélibs, perhaps in order to prepare them for what’s in store for the future.

The P’tit Vélib program was developed after Paris officials discovered that almost half of Parisian children learn to cycle outside of the city. A survey conducted by City Hall in January 2012 found that 86% of Parisian families were interested in a children’s cycle hire service.

Rental points for the new scheme include popular cycling spots such as the peaceful Ourcq canal in the north-east of Paris and the vast Bois de Boulogne park in the 16th arrondissement. Two more rental points will open during the summer.

Depending on the location, bike hire will cost between €4-6 an hour and no more than €12 a day. Helmets are also available.

The hugely successful Vélib cycle hire scheme was launched in July 2007 and consists of 14,000 bicycles available at 1,230 docking stations around Paris. London’s Barclays Cycle Hire programme, which launched in 2010, currently boasts 10,000 bicycles available at 720 stations.

*This is cross-posted with special permission from the Guardian

Head photo: Celso FLORES, Flickr