Paris plans to build the world’s largest fleet of electric bicycles

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Image: Reuters/Stephane Mahe
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E-bikes are getting a major boost in Paris.

Île-de-France Mobilités, Paris’s regional transport agency, plans to offer long-term rentals of 10,000 electric bicycles starting September 2019, Reuters reported Nov. 8. The agency would aim to expand the program, called Veligo, to 20,000 e-bikes, making it the largest rental fleet in the world.

The region’s commitment to e-bikes comes as cities and planners around the globe are rethinking their transit systems to curb carbon emissions. Many European countries and cities are already far ahead of the US in promoting and popularizing bikes as a commuting option. In Paris, the Veligo program will complement the existing system, Velib, for rentals of traditional pedal bicycles.

“Electric bicycles have an enormous potential,”Valérie Pécresse, the leader of the Île-de-France region, told Reuters. “They are an efficient and ecological way to get to the railway station for short commutes that can replace the car.”

European consumers primarily buy pedal-assist electric bikes, or pedelecs, which require the rider to pedal for the motor to run. (Throttle-controlled e-bikes, which don’t require any pedaling, have historically been favored by the US and China.) Consulting firm eCycleElectric Consultants projected in August that 2 million to 3 million e-bikes would be sold in the EU this year.

Reuters reported the Veligo program would cost €40 a month, half of which could be subsidized by employers. Pécresse said that price would let users try out an e-bike—which can cost €1,500 to €2,000 for a nice model—and possibly convince some riders to buy their own.

Paris was also one of the first European cities to get shared standup electric scooters, with first Lime and then Bird launching small fleets there over the summer. In late October, France’s Transport Ministry moved to ban electric scooters from being ridden on city sidewalks, saying such behavior threatened pedestrians.