The Champs-Elysees in Paris
Charles Platiau  /  Reuters file
Boulevard of bikes? Paris officials hope to reduce the numbers of cars, in part through loaning bicycles to residents and visitors.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/30/2007 1:52:04 PM ET 2007-01-30T18:52:04

The City of Light wants to soon become a city of bikes.

Paris City Hall announced it has selected French outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux SA to operate a new free bicycle service in the capital.

Joining other European cities such as Amsterdam, Paris wants to make thousands of bikes available for free to commuters, strollers and tourists — in part to help cut down on pollution.

JCDecaux's Somupi unit is to have some 14,100 bikes deployed in the capital by this summer. City Hall's choice of contractor was announced Monday.

The company was chosen over a consortium of rivals including U.S.-based Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc., and several major French companies.

With 1,450 "stations" — bays at which people can pick up their ride with a credit card and drop it off — planned across Paris by the end of the year, the project should make bicycles free or cheaply available to many of the city's inhabitants.

"I think there are around 300 metro (underground) stations or a little more," a spokesman for Paris City Hall said.

"It means there's practically one (bicycle station) for every three or four streets," he said, adding that the city had picked 790 locations sites so far.

Free for first 30 minutes
Over 20,000 bikes should be available by the end of the year, City Hall said in a statement.

JCDecaux runs similar schemes in Vienna and Brussels, as well as in the southeastern French city of Lyon.

In Lyon, users must pay a 5 euro ($6.48) registration fee for a one-year subscription. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free, and up to 1 euro is charged for each subsequent hour. The average trip there lasts less than 30 minutes.

The Socialist mayor of Paris and his Green traffic chief have reduced space on the city's streets for cars, adding bus lanes and widening pavements in a bid to encourage more people to use public transport.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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