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8/2 Mayor’s portrait

8/2 Websites for social cohesion

7/2 Spreading tourism proceeds with difficulty

7/2 GroenLinks on districts: Be a man

6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

2/2 Johnnie Walker avoids taxes in Amsterdam

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31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

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27/1 Privacy activists to mess up loyalty card system

27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

27/1 Chrisis in de Baarsjes

26/1 Youth have positive view of districts

24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

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23/1 District office not squatted

21/1 Merge districts

20/1 Closing squat bar Vrankrijk not necessary

20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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No Vélib’ in Amsterdam

12 September 2007 - This summer, Paris introduced the Vélib’, a highly successful cheap bicycle rental scheme. Cities including London, Chicago and Seoul plan to introduce similar schemes, but it is unlikely that Amsterdam will follow suit. Nor is OV-fiets likely to develop into something comparable.

In the 1960s, Amsterdam Provos suggested to make ‘white bicycles’ available for free, but this idea was never really implemented. More recently, more advanced systems have been introduced successfully in cities across Europe. Subscribers can rent bicycles for a nominal fee and leave them at a different location within the city.

After the launch of Barcelona’s Bicing concept last spring, some politicians argued that Amsterdam should follow suit. The subsequent introduction of thousands of Vélib’ bicycles (soon there will be 20,000) available from 750 distribution points in Paris created a veritable media hype. The mayors of London and Chicago have visited Paris and plan to introduce similar schemes in their own cities.

It is unlikely that Amsterdam will do so as well, explained municipality spokesperson Johanneke Helmers. For one thing, almost all Amsterdammers already have bicycles. “There isn’t enough room for improvement here”. In addition, Amsterdam is a more compact city than Barcelona and Paris and there is not much public space available for distribution points. “The sidewalks are already filled up with Amsterdammers’ own bicycles”.

The Netherlands does have the OV-fiets (Public Transport Bicycle), a popular rental bicycle available for subscribers within sixty seconds from distribution points at railway stations and other locations. The bicycles cost 2.85 euro per twenty hours.

The scheme is very modest in comparison with Vélib’. Nationally, 3,000 bicycles are available, a few hundred of which in Amsterdam. If necessary, bicycles of the McBike company can be rented as OV-fiets as well. In Amsterdam, OV-fietsen can be rented at seven railway stations and, as a test, at Locker stations at the Albert Cuyp, Binnengasthuis, Kalvertoren and Paradiso.

OV-fiets chairman Ronald Haverman says that expanding the scheme into something comparable to Vélib’ is not realistic, but he would like to increase the number of distribution points. He has not yet contacted the districts, which would have to make space available.

The OV-fiets is different from Vélib’ and similar schemes in that bicycles have to be returned to the distribution point where they were rented, or a 10 euro supplement will be charged. A pilot is being carried out in Ede to see whether this supplement can be abolished.

According to the Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis, Vélib’s success is partly due to its appearance. “As the French first lady Cécilia Sarkozy attests, a chic French woman should never diverge from the strict colour scheme of black, grey or camel, and the bikes, with their metal casing, fit perfectly”.

“Paris has avoided a plague of garish neon bikes in favour of an understated colour scheme that looks good gliding down the boulevards”.

Of course, the introduction of the Vélib’ has not been completely trouble-free. Some 250 to 500 bicycles have been stolen, and the police have been instructed to clamp down on cyclists riding on sidewalks or going the wrong way on a one-way street.

A taxi driver quoted by L’Express seems to be under the impression that Dutch cyclists are more law-abiding. “We don’t have the same mutual respect they have in the Netherlands. Here, cyclists jump red lights, ride on sidewalks and ride in the wrong direction! It’s very dangerous”.

Many cities plan to emulate Vélib’, including Chicago (1,500 to 2,000 bicycles), Tel Aviv (2,500) and Seoul (5,000). In New York, advocates have presented plans to introduce a 40,000 bicycle scheme, and Beijing aims to have 50,000 rental bicycles in place at the 2008 the Olympics.

San Francisco is considering a plan somewhat similar to the Dutch OV-fiets, with distribution points located at bus stations, thus making the bicycles part of the public transportation system.

Meanwhile, the future of OV-fiets is somewhat unclear. Today, the organisation was threatened with legal action if it blocks a takeover by Dutch Railways (NS). Interested parties including cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond believe OV-fiets, in order to expand, needs the NS’ financial clout. OV-fiets says it wants more guarantees from the NS before agreeing to a takeover.

Interestingly, OV-fiets threatens to seek collaboration with ‘innovative and successful parties’ such as the JCDecaux advertising company. JCDecaux operates Vélib’ and a similar scheme in Lyon.

Illustrations: Vélib’ distribution point (top; photo Rcsmit / Wikipedia); OV-fiets in Rotterdam (photo OV-fiets). Vélib’, OV-fiets, Bicing, the Guardian, bike sharing


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