Cycling? Tres chic!

October 13, 2008

By now, you may have heard that French people — Parisians in particular — are pretty much the chicest people on Earth. (Sorry, Italians and New Yorkers. Don’t worry, though; you’re awesome in your own special way.)

Thus, it may not surprise you to hear that the Parisians have spared no expense implementing a city-wide bike sharing program, which launched in summer 2007 and sufficiently upped the City of Lights’ green ante.

Inspired by the success of a similar program in Lyon, France, Paris city officials devised a plan through which cyclists can purchase riding credits at any of the 1,450 self-service rental stations, grab a bike, and go. Users then can return their wheels to any station, making one-way trips a breeze (and, incidentally, these short bike jaunts outpace any other form of transport in Paris, according to a city-commissioned study).

The signature bikes, complete with bells and baskets (de rigeur en Paris!), are called Vélib’, a portmanteau of velo and liberte (liberty). The cost? About $1.30 USD/day. The first 30 minutes are free; after that, cyclists pay by the hour. In the first year alone, Parisians made 27.5 million Vélib’ trips.

With motor traffic congestion and pollution on the rise, a bike sharing program sounds positively brilliante! While approximately 3,000 of the 20,600 bikes have gone missing, the program is nonetheless a good investment in the health of both the city’s inhabitants and air quality.

I remember that my former town of Olympia, Wash., once played host to a fleet of shared bikes, which were free to use. And which were hot pink and designed for eight-year-olds. But they were shared, up until they all disappeared. (Likely suspects: a rabid pack of wheel-less eight-year-olds.)

Could a program like this work in your city? Seattle is kinda hilly, so maybe we’d need 21-speeds. Would your hometown people get out and ride, do you think?


Birthdays and Biking

May 15, 2008

Huzzah for Mr. Living Small, who marks the big 2-5 today! In an effort to celebrate this momentous occasion in a Small way, I’ve selected a stuff-free gift — a token that not only communicates my deep esteem and affection for the Duke of Tiny House, but also includes a “Mighty Wurlitzer” and this man:


Happy Birthday, Sweetie: We’re going to the Paramount Theatre’s Douglas Fairbanks Festival, a Monday-night silent movie series accompanied live by Dennis James, organist. For those of you who live in the area, come on down. And, if you miss out on Dougie Fair, the Paramount hosts Silent Movie Mondays throughout the year. At $12 a person, it’s a bit pricey for a flick, but I guarantee this is likely the only time you’ll see these oldies on the big screen. Plus, you’re supporting a local arts organization — Small, in an Augustus Caesar kind of way.

And, in another tribute to that Man of Mine, I submit for your approval this photo of him on his folding Dahon:

BK\'s folding bike

Why? Because tomorrow, May 16, is Seattle’s Bike to Work Day! Don’t miss out on this city-wide, cycle-friendly event, which gives bikers the chance to raise awareness of muscle-bound, eco-conscious commuting options, as well as to gather free bike-related stuff at various Commute Stations both around the city and in surrounding areas. Sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club, Bike to Work Day is the centerpiece of Bike to Work Month, which invites folks from throughout the Puget Sound region to get out of the car and onto the saddle for the health of their hearts and the planet. Plus, cool prizes are available for those who take part in the month-long Commuter Challenge.

While I regret to say that the Living Smaller herself won’t be participating — the tiny house has room for but one cycle, and a folding one at that — I do encourage those of you with a pair of wheels to get peddlin’!

Good luck, riders. And, once again, Happy Birthday, BK.