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Originally published August 3, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 3, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Paris bike program pedals toward big success

This year's Tour de France bike race may have been ruined by doping scandals, but a new city bicycle program has made two-wheeled transport...

PARIS — This year's Tour de France bike race may have been ruined by doping scandals, but a new city bicycle program has made two-wheeled transport very popular in Paris for residents and tourists.

The Velib' — short for "free bike" — program launched in Paris in July has been a runaway success for Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, enabling thousands of Parisians and visitors to pedal to work, shops and sights.

Similar systems exist in other European countries, as city administrations struggle to ease both traffic gridlock and air pollution, but the French capital has the most ambitious program.

Some 616,000 users have signed up to be able to pick up (and drop off) bikes at more than 750 points in Paris for daily subscriptions of 1 euro.

About 10,000 bikes are already in place, and Velib' is to double in size by the end of the year with around 20,000 of the sturdy, gray-green bikes and 1,450 pick-up points.

The first half-hour is free, which organizers believe will cover most users, though longer journeys are possible on a mounting scale of charges. For sign-ups and information, see www.velib.paris.fr/ (in French only).

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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