News Transportation

Can Cincinnati learn from Paris’ famed Velib’ bike sharing program?

When I stepped out of the Edgar Quinet Metro station and onto the street for the first time something immediatley caught my eye in this neighborhood of Paris, France. Within just a few minutes I noticed something that I did not expect. Not only were there a ton of people riding bicycles around the neighborhood, but most of them seemed to be riding the same model bike. It was slightly different than a normal bike, and stood out in a way that made them all noticeable and different than a more normal bike on the street. I thought to myself, what is it with these Parisians and their funky bikes?

It didn’t take much time walking the streets to continually notice these bikes just about everywhere and once I came across a whole bunch of these bikes parked at a station it started to make sense. Then there was another station; and another station. No wonder these bikes were everywhere, they were available everywhere.

What I had stumbled upon was the Velib’ bicycle program which was started four years ago in 2007 and was championed by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe. It is a bicycle sharing program that is available throughout the city of Paris and is designed to be a short term rental where riders can pick up a bike at one station and drop the bike at any of the other 1,800 stations (averaging one every 330 yards) throughout the city.

All it takes to get started is scanning a credit card at one of the stations and off you go through Paris on two wheels. A subscription is necessary which can be purchased in daily, weekly, or annual incraments and range from $2.50 for a day to $41.50 for an annual pass. The first thirty minutes of each ride is free, which of course encourages Parisians to use the bikes on short commutes, and after thirty minutes the rider must pay service fees.

The program was reportedly a wild success when it was rolled out four years ago, but it is not without its problems. There have long been reports that the program which was funded and is run by ad agency JCDecaux is too costly considering the maintenance, theft, and vandalism to the bicycles. Through the contract the advertising agency has exclusive rights to the over 1600 outdoor billboards throughout Paris, but all of the money from the fees for the program itself go back to the city of Paris.

Users of Paris Velib’ – Photographs by Dave Rolfes.

Clearly, Cincinnati is not Paris from its sheer size and even bicycle friendliness at this point, but seeing this program made me wonder what our city could learn from it. Sure we cannot support 1,800 stations and of course we do not need 20,000 bikes on the street, but is there a scalable way to do this type of program in our region?

I would propose that there is. With a focus on the urban core, stations could be set up both north and south of the river from historic Over-the-Rhine in the north, to Bellevue, Newport, and Covington in the south. Our urban core is relatively flat and allows for easy riding from one place to another.

There could be stations set up in other neighborhoods as well throughout the city, Uptown and Northside come to mind as obvious choices, and even some of the other city neighborhoods could support a program like this. It would definitely help to change the culture in Cincinnati, as it has Paris, by putting more bikes on the road and helping our citizens become healthier. Additionally, as there are few other programs like this in the United States, it would continue to further position Cincinnati as a city that can be environmentally friendly and progressive in its thinking.

Business News Transportation

Certified bike friendly destinations awarded

For the first time Queen City Bike has worked to help identify and recognize bike friendly destinations this year and recently published the list during the annual bike month celebration. The list of local businesses were recognized for both their infrastructure and encouragement for bicycle use in their company culture. The process was completed through an initial survey which the company completed and then verified by Queen City Bike last month.

Categories were identified and weighted under each of the primary focuses of infrastructure and encouragement. The main parts of infrastructure included ensuring that there is adequate parking for bicycles near or inside the establishment, providing facilities for bicyclists to freshen up, and even providing a fleet of bicycles for employee use. Many more fell under encouragement including measuring commuting, offering classes, and even giving discounts to those that arrive on their bicycle. Points were awarded for each category an establishment had available, and three levels of recognition were given based on how many points were earned.

In all, forty places of business were recognized for their dedication to cycling with fifteen being designated with gold certification for earning a high level of points during the survey. Twenty three earned a silver designation, one bronze, and one honorable mention. Melissa McVay of QCB said, “I was very impressed with the size of the list in our inaugural year.”

The complete list has been published on the Queen City Bike website, with many showing why they earned the designation they did. The list of certified “gold” designations range from retail shops like Park + Vine, to Metro and TANK offices, to the Mercantile Library. As bicycle awareness and acceptance grows around the Greater Cincinnati area, this list will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

Slow and Steady ride outside Park and Vine bike corral picture via OTR Matters

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Talib Kweli to celebrate Record Store Day in Cincinnati this Saturday

Saturday, April 16 is the 2011 version of the national celebration known as Record Store Day. This is the fifth annual day to celebrate all things great about locally owned and independent record stores around the country as there are specific qualifications for a store to participate.

Organizers say that for a shop to be included they must have a primary focus on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation.

In Cincinnati, that means we have three participating shops including Mole’s Record Exchange uptown, Everybody’s Records in Pleasant Ridge and Shake It Records in Northside. On Saturday, each store will be celebrating music and trying to attract customers to their shops mainly through in-store performances and special limited edition vinyl releases that can only be found at certain stores throughout the country. Therefore record collectors and the curious shopper can find different releases at each store.

The in-store performance fun gets started at Everybody’s Records at noon and runs until 6pm with performances by Cletis T & the Poontingers, Quick Turns, and finally State Song. Uptown meanwhile, Mole’s Record Exchange will be focused primarily on special releases this year.

The biggest party will be at Shake It Records. National hip-hop recording artist Talib Kweli will be on hand at 1pm for an in-store performance and a signing of his newest release. Additionally local rockers Wussy will be playing at 7pm and another Cincy band heading for the big time, Foxy Shazam will play at 9pm.

Ben Harper says, “Independent record stores are much more than the name suggests. They are an international community and platform where music has an outlet and an opportunity to grow over the long term, in a way that sincerely connects with community and culture.”

This is totally true so take the time to get out and support three of Cincinnati’s contributions to this community. And here, we’ll leave you with a cut from Talib Kweli’s new album.

Arts & Entertainment News

Cincinnati kicks off Earth Day celebrations this Saturday

Cincinnati will begin celebrating the 41st annual Earth Day this Saturday. This year’s event will once again be hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition at Sawyer Point in downtown Cincinnati. The official Earth Day takes place on April 22, but as always, Cincinnatians will come together to celebrate the environment throughout the week leading up to the big day.

“The theme this year is ‘One Earth, One Chance’ and the celebration gives families a great opportunity to see first-hand the many innovative ways they can help protect the earth while still having a good time,” said Standish Fortin, President of Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition. “We hope the community will come out to enjoy themselves, learn about earth friendly products and to recognize those who’s efforts make Cincinnatia beautiful place to live.”

Organizers say that there will be lots of family friendly events throughout the day, which run from noon to 5:30pm, including earth friendly vendors, as well as exhibitors from environmental groups, government agencies, local businesses and citizens demonstrating their contributions to the beauty andenvironmental quality of our region.

Additionally, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory will be on hand to present environmental awards to five local recipients who have made a positive impact on the environmental community around them.

At Earth Day 2011, bicyclists are treated to free parking and Metro bus service also provides convenient access to the park. Those attending will also be able to drop off any used batteries, cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras and camcorders for recycling courtesy of KPMG.

2010 Cincinnati Earth Day photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

Arts & Entertainment News

2011 Tunes & Blooms concert schedule released

With spring just around the corner it is almost time again for the nationally-acclaimed Cincinnati Zoo to host their outdoor concert series Tunes & Blooms, sponsored by 89.7FM WNKU.

This series of concerts runs during the month of April on Thursday evenings at 6pm. The music plays just inside the zoo’s recently renovated historic Vine Street Village entrance. All those interested in attending are treated to free admission after 5pm.

While all acts are local to Cincinnati and play numerous shows around town, the opportunity to catch them for free and outside as the weather starts to turn is a unique experience. The full schedule can be found online.  Two of the bands are “can’t-miss” Cincinnati acts, which both performed at South by Southwest (SXSW) this week in Austin, Texas.

The first of these two bands, Walk the Moon, performs on April 14 with the No No Knots. Since their official album release of “I Want, I Want” late last year, these guys have won over crowd after crowd in Cincinnati and are starting to win them over outside of their hometown too. Aside from playing at SXSW this year, they also recently signed a management deal with Mick Management, which is a boutique firm that works with a small stable of artists, including John Mayer and Ray LaMontagne. Things are happening at a lightning pace for Walk the Moon, and the sky seems to be the limit, so take this time to catch them in an intimate outdoor setting, as they put on a phenomenal live show.

The following Thursday, April 21, another band that has been gaining national respect, albeit at a little bit of a slower pace, The Seedy Seeds will take the stage at the zoo. They too played SXSW and recently released their newest album “Verb Noun” at the Southgate House. The Seeds, as they are affectionately known to their ardent fans, play a unique style of music that has been referred to as “folktronica” and it should translate well when they take the stage with The Tillers in a little over a month.

Tunes & Blooms offers free admission, but parking costs $8 at the zoo’s official parking lot. Conert goers are welcomed to bring their own food to the concerts to further enjoy the spring weather in Uptown. Those choosing not to drive can utilize Metro’s Trip Planner or find free bicycle parking nearby.

Tunes & Blooms photograph by UrbanCincy contributor Thadd Fiala.