Getting around Paris is complicated by heavy traffic, but made even more difficult when you want to park. There are over two million vehicles registered in Paris and many fewer parking places. As a result Parisians have gotten really creative about what they drive. As you can see above, Smartcars and their competitors, tiny two person cars are very popular, partly as a result of the ability to park them just about anywhere and in any direction.
Then there are the scooters, the vehicle of choice for take out food like pizza and sushi. These little scooters are utilitarian and very popular in Italy and Portugal but don’t really mesh with the Parisian self image. So motorcycles come into the picture, and they come in all sizes and configurations.
This motorcycle definitely has the right image but is not very practical in the rain (it rains a lot in the spring).
This one is a lot more practical with a windshield, better seat for the passenger and a nylon cover for your lap. Moreover it has two front wheels so you don’t have to put your foot down when you stop. You see a lot of this model. Note that both of these motorcycles were parked on the sidewalk, a plus for parking but not entirely legal.
Then there is this well heeled older gentleman who can’t decide between a car and a motorcycle so he decided to get a Honda motorcycle the size of a small car. This thing looks like it has every option known to man, including stereo sound, bluetooth, built in phone etc and looks like it weighs the same as a car. He lives in the building next to ours and it has been parked in the same place for over a week although he checks on it several times a day. Maybe he is afraid to ride it, if it tips over I am pretty sure he won’t be able to pick it back up.
This one from BMW has a windshield that goes all the way over the top.
Now we get into the really bizarre transportation options. If a windshield is good in the rain, why not arch it over and make a one person car? I would imagine this model is in high demand for getaway drivers from bank robberies (smile).
And while you are at it, add some sides. One thing about it, this guy has definitely decided he does not want a girlfriend. Also note it is parked on the sidewalk, a quasi legal parking spot.
Mercedes Benz has made the Smartcar since 1998 and while it has been more popular in Europe than the US, the division has rarely made a profit. BMW went with the Mini, which is more than three feet longer than a Smartcar and hit a home run selling more than twice as many Minis as Smarts and at much higher prices. But now Smart has released the version that it was intended to be in the first place – an all-electric Smart with Mini-like acceleration, handling and performance. It is a vast improvement over gas- or diesel-powered Smarts that were noisy, nasty and slow. The gas version only got about 32 mpg (rated 36 mpg by the EPA) although the diesel version numbers are better. We just saw one of the electric Smarts across the street today in Paris.
Daimler has decided to try renting out Smarts in addition to selling them, dubbed “cartogo”. It is going after this rent-by-the-minute, free-floating car-share business big time. It plans to have 50 cities in Europe and 30 cities in North America with fleets by 2016.
Vélib’ is a large-scale public bicycle sharing system in Paris, France. Launched on 15 July 2007, the system has expanded to encompass around 18,000 bicycles and 1,200 bicycle stations, located across Paris and in some surrounding municipalities. Since December 2011, Vélib’ has been complemented by an electric car sharing scheme operating on similar principles, dubbed Autolib‘.
Subscriptions can be purchased at €1.70 per day, €8/week, €29/year (Vélib’ Classique), or €39/year (Vélib’ Passion). With a subscription, bike rental is free for the first half hour of every individual trip; an unlimited number of such free trips can be made per day. A trip that lasts longer than 30 minutes incurs a charge of €1 to €4 for each subsequent 30-minute period. Here is the official English version site.
For the Autolib’ program, Paris decided to go with electric cars made by Ferrarai, with lithium batteries to hold more juice, charge in 4 hours with a 250 km range. The little four-seater cars, called “Bluecar”, are entirely electric. They have a top speed of 130km/h (80mph) and can travel 250 km on a single charge.
Year-long subscriptions to Autolib’ cost 144 euros, while daily and weekly subscriptions will also be available for 10 and 15 euros respectively. An additional fee of around five euros will be charged for every half-hour of driving. They have locations all around Paris, here is the official Autolib’ English website.