As the Tour de France annual bike race wends its arduous way across the country, in Paris amateur cyclists will from Sunday be able to use swipe- or credit-cards 24 hours a day to rent cycles for short trips, dropping them off at any of 750 bike points to be picked up by a new user.
....Costs for the user have been kept right down. Rental is free for the first half hour, rising to one euro for the second, two for the next and so on -- a progressive charging system designed to encourage short rents and quick turn-over.
There is also a small subscription fee. Registered bikers pay 29 euros (38 dollars) a year while occasional cyclists can use a credit card to pay a one-off daily fee of one euro or weekly charge of five euros.
....The scheme will not cost French taxpayers a penny thanks to a deal between city hall and urban advertising giant JC Decaux, which is picking up the bill in exchange for exclusive rights to 1,600 hoardings across the city.
It will even generate funds for the city, with a slice of ad revenue paid back into its coffers.
Paris' strategy is to allay concerns -- such as bike theft and repairs -- that have kept people from taking up cycling and that have caused similar schemes to founder in cities such as Amsterdam.
Despite a growing 400-kilometre (250-mile) network of cycle paths, the city of two million, which has one of the best public transport systems in the world, has only 150,000 bike owners.
It is also rolling out a major campaign on road safety for novice cyclists, while reassuring users that bikes are less accident-prone than cars or motorcycles.
It is counting on the sheer number of bikes on the street to win over doubters, and force the notoriously aggressive Parisian drivers to be more considerate.