In Paris, Training Wheels For The Littlest Riders | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

In Paris, Training Wheels For The Littlest Riders

Play associated audio

A bike rental scheme in Paris that began seven years ago has been such a success, the city has launched a version for children. Parents can now rent bikes for tots up to 8 years old at locations across the city.

Officials say the program won't cost Paris a cent and might help build a new generation of environmentally conscious citizens — or perhaps inspire a few future Tour de France champions.

The original, adult enterprise is named Velib, which stands for velo — or bicycle — Liberte. It's been such a success that there are high hopes for its little successor, P'tit Velib.

Along the banks of the Seine, at a mile-long stretch known as Les Berges, no cars are allowed. Only barges and sightseeing boats ply the river. That's where P'tit Velib concessionary Joel Sick has set up his rental stand.

Sick's collection of 40 shiny new velos come in three different sizes, along with a training-wheel option. The smallest, called a hobby horse, has no pedals at all. Sick says it allows 2-year-olds to push themselves along and develop their balance.

"In Paris, people don't usually have kids' bikes," Sick says. "They keep them at their country house, if they have one. And if you have several kids, you can't fit all the bikes in your apartment. So this rental scheme is really meeting a need."

When school's out for the summer next week, Sick plans to give bike lessons. But today, in the gray Paris drizzle, he wonders if anyone will show up.

"It's a great idea. We looked for you and found you," says Herminie Nougaret, 70, who has brought her 6-year-old godson, Omar Tall. Despite the weather, Nougaret says she wants Omar to be able to ride with no cars around.

P'tit Velib has five rental locations around the city, all in secure, spacious places: the river, the canal and at the city's biggest parks.

"For little Parisiens and little tiny Parisiens, it's very hard to find a safe place to learn how to ride the bicycle, because the streets are dangerous," says Jean Francois Martins, Paris deputy mayor for sports and tourism.

Martins says it's also about building an environmentally friendly city for the future.

"If we can make the bicycle like a reflex or something very natural, even when you're young, it will be for the next generation," Martins says.

Because an advertising firm is involved in the scheme, rental prices are affordable for customers — 4 euros per hour, 7 euros for a half-day and 10 for the whole day — and it costs the city nothing.

Oscar, nearly 3 years old, arrives back at the stand to return his bike with training wheels. His mom, Sonia Bayeda is thrilled.

"It's the first time he has the opportunity to ride on a real bicycle, so we're very happy with that idea of the city of Paris," she says.

Yes, agrees father Jean Guillaume Bayeda — to a point. He says he'd rather see the city set up more daycare centers.

"I think this is [a] sign they don't have so many new ideas," he says. But Oscar seems sold on it.

"I love the little bike with the pink helmet," he says, running over to get on his P'tit Velib.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Diversity Sells — But Hollywood Remains Overwhelmingly White, Male

Women and minorities continue to be under-represented on TV and in film, both behind and in front of the camera, according to a new study — even though diverse films and shows make more money.
NPR

Italian Cheese Lovers Find Their Bovine Match Through Adopt A Cow

The cheeses of the Italian Alps are prized for their flavor. But the tradition of cheese-making here is dying off. Now remaining farmers are banding together around an unusual adoption program.
NPR

Is The Battle Won And Done For Those Who Fought For Net Neutrality?

In a 3-2 vote on Feb. 26, the FCC approved new rules, regulating broadband internet as a public utility. NPR's Arun Rath speaks with Mat Honan, San Francisco bureau chief for BuzzFeed News, about the political implications of the vote.
NPR

A Neuroscientist Weighs In: Why Do We Disagree On The Color Of The Dress?

Robert Siegel speaks with Dr. Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist at Wellesley College, about the dress that has the whole Internet asking: What color is it?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.