OK, Paris was and is terrific. Car traffic was manageable; bike lanes abound; everything is close to everything; and each block of the city is a nice one to be out riding on. So where else will it work?
Places that have safe places to ride. Paris has spent the last 4 years working out dedicated bike routes throughout the city.
Places that don’t have too many hills. I know that San Francisco is looking into bike sharing for their city. After my no-bike experience at the top of a not very big hill, I just can’t imagine the size of the bribe it is going to take to encourage people to return bikes to the top of SF hills – or what percentage of bikes will have to be trucked around and how many times a day.
Places where there is great transit. At least as Velib works now, you can’t absolutely positively count on a bike being available. If you can’t count on it, then it is out for commuting, out for important errands, and becomes a kind of nice novelty. That will dramatically diminish its use.
Places where we aren’t weather wimps. I couldn’t say places with nice weather, because I know those Danes use their bikes in every possible climate. I guess it will depend on the culture of those who live in the city whether or not they will ride when it is dark, cold, drizzly, hot, muggy.
Places that commit to a large number of bike locations. It really mattered that the bike stations were everywhere. At first I was irritated that Velib didn’t have printed maps available to show where the stations were, and that it was too dangerous to wing it. But I was wrong. I could depend on finding a station with just a little bit of circling. I didn’t need a map or big green V’s marring the beautiful Paris streetscapes shouting “here.”
Places that are beautiful – certainly a plus. The pleasure of being out and seeing the sites was a big encouragement. Velib quickly became my top and preferred mode of transportation: virtually free, fast, convenient, safe-ish (I would have liked my helmet), beautiful. As a single (sans enfant) person, why travel any other way?