Thursday, 8 May 2008

Naughty Velib' ?

In this nice weather, it's hard not to pass a Velib' station and impulsively ride off somewhere, anywhere. That's just what I did on the way back from dropping the kids off at school. On passing the Velib's glimmering in the sunlight, I set free a bike and was heading off when I realized the seat was all funky, which is usually an indication that something else is not right. Sure enough, there was a pedal missing on the right side of the bike. Thankfully, there were more docked at the station, and I chose a bike that was in good form.

I rode merely 10 minutes to the station near our apartment. This is the beauty of the Velib', just hopping on and back off again for short jaunts.

Two days later, my husband and I were headed to the Musée Jaquemart André, which is a personal collection of art in a beautiful setting that was donated to France, building and all. A must see.

Wanting to hop on a Velib' and cruise downhill to the museum, I scanned my Navigo which also contains my Velib' pass. The scanner emitted a nasty "you're wrong" noise as well as a red light. I tried my pass on several other bikes, all with the same results. Hmmmm. I've only had a happy relationship with Velib'- what could be wrong?

I slid my card on the main Velib' database, and after entering my secret code, the screen showed that I owed 35,00 Euros! What! How can that be? My last ride was nearly 10 minutes long, I couldn't possibly owe anything. A closer look at my "history" showed that on the day of my 10 minute ride, the bike was checked out for 8 hours and 35 minutes. Uh oh...

This was the first time I felt that Velib' had let me down. A bit saddened, I waited for bus #84 to come by to take me near the museum.

Later in the day, I called the Velib' team to inquire about my situation. The man on the phone grilled me. "What day was your last trip on a Velib'? Where did you pick up the bike? Where did you drop it off?" He explained that after I thought I was finished with my trip, my velib carried on with travels unbeknownst to me, eight hours of secret travels to be exact, ending up only a few kilometers away, as if to mock me.

I felt slightly betrayed by my Velib', even though I knew the wrong wasn't the bike's. What bike wouldn't take advantage of the fact that the last traveler hadn't fully locked it in? I imagined where my Velib' had gone. Had it gotten lonely and searched for other Velib’s which were hard to find on such a nice day? Was it fraternizing with those capitalist, individually owned bikes that were not to be trusted? Did it merely want to go for a long journey, having tired of so many short trips? I could only wonder.

Fortunately, the interrogator on the other line said that they'll take care of the fine this time, since it hasn't happened before. I was relieved and yet a bit nervous, knowing that if I hadn't locked it in properly once, I'm likely to do it again. After all, I'm no newcomer to the Velib', and still can't believe that I left it "unleashed". I was happy that the bike was actually returned and didn't become someone's personal Velib' (shudder the thought) which certainly could have happened.
I can’t wait to go and scan my card again. Hopefully this time, the happy beep will sound along with the green, everything’s cool, light. I will think about my next Velib’s potential for mischief as I ride off.



I wonder if there are bands of Velib' riders who roam the stands looking for unbridled bikes. I'm impressed your Velib' rep on the phone removed the fine. That's not very French.

Starman said...

I've seen so many Velibbers since arriving in Paris. I've also seen a lot more available than I was expecting.

Anonymous said...

If you have an annual card you can check your velib'account on the website. You will see at once if the bike was returned correctly.

Christopher said...

Hi - I haven't been in Paris in 2 years and Velib' has transformed the place. I am having frustrations with North American credit cards not working in the ticket machines but have managed to get myself a card with a 'puce'. Does anyone know where to get a used kids bicycle? My 8 year old arrives next week and I would love to be able to cycle around with him. He is just a bit small for Velib but definitely not on a kiddy bike with training wheels either. I was at Emmaus today but no luck. We are only here for 2 months and I don't feel like dropping 100 Euros.


dryanna said...

M.R.- I'm sure there are some opportunists out there. I'm just glad mine was returned.

Starman- They're everywhere, aren't they?

Anon- right on.

Christopher- No help on finding a bike for you. I got lucky on Craigslist, it looks like you've got that covered. I'm curious how you got the card with a "puce". Did you open an account?