Paris on Sunday rolled out a new citywide bicycle program involving 10,600 bikes in a bid to cut gridlock and give citizens a greener way to get around town.


Paris launched a new bicycle service Sunday, with more than 10,600 available at 750 stations all over the city. ((Laurent Baheux/Associated Press))

The program, named Vélib — a blend of vélo (bike) and liberté — allows users to swipe their credit card and take and return a bike from one of 750 stations in the city.

"In the morning, you can go to work in the tram and come home by bike; it depends on the weather, it depends on your mood and on your friends," said Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe Sunday.

Delanoe aims to cut car traffic in the city by 40 per cent by 2020.

A year-long pass for the program costs $41.75, a one-day pass $1.42 and a weekly pass $7.15. The first half-hour after picking up a bike is included in the cost, but additional fees are applied if a bicycle is kept out of rotation for a longer period of time. On Sunday, 13,000 people had already bought annual passes.

The program aims to double the number of bikes and stations by the end of 2007. Advertising company J.C. Decaux is providing the bikes and stations, in exchange for exclusive use of the city's billboards.

Bike share programs offered throughout Europe

Similar biking services are offered in Stockholm, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona and Copenhagen. Earlier this month, the New York Bike-Share Project made 20 bicycles available for borrowing in SoHo. If successful, the project could be expanded to other areas of the city.

Last December, Toronto's six-year-old bike sharing program ended. Organizers said the acclaimed program, which supplied 234 bikes to 2,000 users, ran out of money.

With files from the Associated Press