While in the U.S., bike-share systems are issuing threatening letters to parents who invent ways to tote their kids along, Paris is pioneering bike-share for the under-10 set. As far as we know, P’tit Vélib’ is the first of its kind in the world.
In June, Vélib’ made 300 kids’ bikes available in five locations near parks and paths throughout Paris. More locations will open later this summer. Kids can choose among four different sizes for ages 2 to 10. The smallest ones are balance bikes without pedals, for toddlers just getting the hang of it, or with training wheels.
P’tit Vélib’ isn’t bike-share so much as a convenient system for short-term rentals. The kids have to return the bikes to the same dock where they got them. Each dock with kids’ bikes will be staffed and will mostly only be open on weekends, holidays, and during school vacations.
Another key difference: The kids’ bikes will come with helmets.
According to BusinessWeek, the Parisian city government surveyed Paris families in 2012 and found that 86 percent were interested in renting bikes for their children.
The limited system might not be exactly what those eager parents had in mind. The beauty of bike-share is its effortless convenience in accomplishing the tasks of daily life. This kids’ bike-share system still won’t help parents drop kids off at piano lessons or play dates, or bring them along to buy baguettes and stinky cheese.
But it’s also an incredible resource for parents who want to teach their kids the love of bicycling but can’t afford to size up every year as their kids grow, or whose small city apartments can’t accommodate a kids’ bike fleet, or who want to test out various options to see what their kids like best. It lowers the barriers to entry to a childhood — and later, adulthood — filled with joyful and confident cycling.