The New Way to See Paris: On A Bicycle

Recently, Paris announced plans to make bicycles available to the city’s commuters, strollers, and tourists for free. Working with French outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux SA — which received access to more than 1600 publicity sites in exchange for providing the bikes — the City plans to have in excess of 14,000 bikes by this summer, and more than 20,000 by the end of 2007. To borrow a bike, users visit one of the 1400+ stations around the city, hand over a swipe-card, get a bike, and roll away. Bikes may be returned at any station.

This sounds like a great idea to lower pollution. However, I wonder if thousands of cycling tourists, confused by unfamiliar signage, disoriented by winding cobbled roads, and dazzled by the beautiful buildings surrounding them, will cause more headaches for Paris than it resolves.

My prediction? By the end of the year, every intersection currently manned by art vendors will have boys with tire tools and pumps showcasing their wares. I wonder if JCDecaux SA secured the rights to advertise for all the bike repairmen.

What do you think? Is this idea a magnifique way to pump up the city’s image, or is it stupide, certain to deflate?