I read today that Paris has joined other major European cities in an innovative bike rental program that seems actually to work. Though still new, it gives promise of improving the urban environment by reducing noise, congestion, air pollution, and production of greenhouse gasses. It's a simple idea. A stub entry in Wikipedia explains:
Vélib’ (“vélo libre”, English: free bicycle) is a public bicycle rental programme in Paris, France. Starting from July 15, 2007, 20,000 bicycles are available for rental from 1,450 automated stations distributed across Paris.A French blog called Ma ville à vélo says that Parisians used the bikes 440,000 times during the first two weeks of operation and that the system will be expanded to cover nearby suburbs.
The system is owned and operated by the city authorities and co-financed by the JCDecaux advertising corporation. Bike rental is free for the first half hour, then costs one to four euros for each subsequent 30-minute period. The increasing price scale is intended to keep the bikes in circulation. A credit card is required to sign up for the programme and to rent bikes.
As of 2007, similar schemes are also in effect in other European cities, including Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, Lyon, Stockholm and Vienna.
Vélib' is the French homepage for the program. There are many news accounts, including the LA Times (Paris, the city of bikes?) and AP (Paris on two wheels).
Ma ville à vélo has this video showing the introduction of Vélib' in Paris --
Inauguration de Vélib' envoyé par mairiedeparis