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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Paris Rolls Out Bike-Sharing Program to Ease Congestion

PARIS -- It's summer in Paris and the French capital is preparing to offer bikes for anyone who wants to take a ride.

By July 15, the city plans to park 10,648 bicycles at 750 stations and nearly double that by 2008, with riders able to take bikes from one station and drop them off at another.

The "Velib" concept -- short for "free bike" in French -- evolved from idealistic bike-sharing programs in Europe in the 1960s aimed at reducing the use of cars and cutting down on traffic congestion and air pollution.

The most famous case was Amsterdam -- a flop because bikes were either stolen or too beaten-up to ride.

Now, many cities are giving it a go again by partnering up with advertising firms that will provide bikes equipped with anti-theft systems in return for city-wide advertising opportunities.

In the residential 15th district in southwestern Paris, a parking spot next to a corner cafe is being adapted to become home to a fleet of sleek, gray bicycles.

"I think the program is a good thing, and it will help reduce the number of cars on the street," said Jean-Michel Bourdet, who owns a nearby video store.

"I used to ride bikes all the time, but they all kept getting stolen. Now I'm going to start riding again," he said.

In an effort to prevent thefts from crippling the network, Velib' bikes will be equipped with a lock and an alarm that will sound if the bike is not returned to a station. There will also be a security deposit that riders will lose if their bike vanishes.