Paris: New bike program pedals past US tourists

There’s been a lot of buzz about Paris’ new city-wide bike push that put over 10,000 bikes on the street for rent (read our earlier post). According to the plan, anyone with a credit card can join the program, which lends bikes for 30-minute treks for almost nothing (membership in the program costs as low as $44 a year).

Budget Travel’s blog on Wednesday pointed out a serious problem for Americans ready to hop on a bike: The rental kiosks, it turns out, only take European micro-chipped enhanced credit cards.

As US tourists in France usually find out early in their trip, American credit cards are not equipped with the little microchip that makes French cards tick. This sometimes, but not always, causes trouble when swiping at a restaurant, in a store, or even (our personal favorite) in a Metro station. Now it’s at it again, jamming the bike rental process. ARGH!

We are hopeful that Mayor Delanoë will remedy this “chip” issue as soon as possible, so our people can get pedaling! (Or, perhaps, we should be begging our American banks to equip our cards with the chips?) While he’s at it, fix those pesky Metro machines, which accept only bechipped cards or coins! (Many stations don’t have live agents selling tickets and passes, either, leading to some very confusing and maddening situations.)

Some bright news, however:

For those with chips on their cards, the bike plan seems to be a smashing success. The LA Times’ Marjorie Miller wrote Monday that it’s almost a victim of its own success, as potential riders often show up at bike stations only to find all the bikes already rented. Some taxi drivers also seem to be “over” the new onslaught of bikers, driving close to our 3-speed pioneers.

Meanwhile, Serge Schmemann writes in yesterday’s New York Times that Paris is wonderful by bus, bike, train… about anything other than a car. He thinks other big city mayors should study the way Paris made city driving hard, while introducing easier, cheaper, and faster public transportation.

We agree. Other big cities could learn some things from Paris — and New York is getting serious about making life more difficult (and expensive) for drivers. Just Paris, take our cards, please!

About the author

Tom Meyers
About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]
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