New public bike systems debuting in Paris, Barcelona and other cities mark the dawn of personal rapid transit
Today there are more than 100 public bike systems underway, the most famous being the huge new system created in Paris last summer under the name Vélib’ (roughly free bike). There are more than 15,000 currently in service and with the full fleet up to 20,000 by the end of this year. Other large systems are in operation or underway in Barcelona, Lyon, Rome, Berlin, and in North America there are several dozen cities looking carefully at this idea, with projects about to be launched in Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal, Vancouver and Washington DC.
What is most promising about these new transportation systems is how efficiently and simply they work. Think of them as tiny transit vehicles you can pick up where you want, when you want, go to exactly where you want and leave them there. They offer the same convenience of the car but without all the problems—from parking to traffic jams to pollution to sprawl. They are truly a form personal rapid transit.