* New scheme doubles bike station parking capacity
* One third of new bikes to be electric
* Paris to decide on new Velib rates this autumn
* Bluetooth link to smartphone navigation apps
By Geert De Clercq
PARIS, May 10 The new bicycles in the Paris
hiring scheme will be one third electric and easier to park but
subscription fees may have to go up a little, the Velib system's
new operators said.
Last month, the city of Paris awarded the operation of its
bicycle hiring scheme to the Smoovengo consortium led by French
bike sharing specialist Smoove in a 600-700 million euro
contract that will run from 2018 to 2032.
With many Parisians living in the residential left bank and
working on the right bank, Velib parking stations on the right
bank tend to fill up by mid-morning, forcing users to park far
from their workplace, while users working late have trouble to
park their bike near their home in the evening.
The new Velib bikes, which will go into operation from
January, have a locking system that doubles the parking capacity
of each bike station, which should reduce congestion, Smoove
director Laurent Mercat told reporters on Wednesday.
Movable docking stations will also make it possible to
create temporary Velib parking stations near events.
The city hopes that by making a third of the bicyles
electric, it will also solve the problem of Velibs disappearing
from Paris' hilly neighborhoods such as Montmartre, Montparnasse
and Buttes Chaumont, where users happily cycle downhill but
rarely bring back the bikes to high-lying bike stations.
The bikes will also have bluetooth connections to
smartphones, with apps that can guide cyclists through
traffic-free streets in Paris and offer sighseeing tours for
Later this year, the city of Paris will decide on a new
Velib subscription rate, which has been unchanged at 29 euros
($31.50) per year for the past decade.
"We are not planning a major subscription fee increase, we
do not want to lose our customers," said Marie-Pierre de la
Gontrie, head of the Syndicat Velib Metropole which oversees the
scheme, but she added that the electric bikes would cost more.
Smoove's Mercat said that since the previous JCDecaux system
was partly financed by outdoor advertising revenues - which will
not be the case under the new contract - it was probable that
rates would increase slightly.
Only 30-40 percent of Velib's cost is covered by
subscriptions, the rest comes from subsidies.
Sturdier bikes, a locking cable integrated into the handle
bar and a GPS-tracking system will reduce vandalism and theft,
which affect about 15 percent of the bicycles per year.
($1 = 0.9212 euros)
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alison Williams)