Kim Willsher in Paris
The Guardian, Tuesday 17 July 2012 08.04 EDT
Source: The Guardian
The suspects allegedly found a way of getting round the sophisticated electronic security system to remove bikes. If that failed, they resorted to crowbars to wreck the cycles or their stands, leading to the closure of 50 parking stations.
Many of the stolen bikes have been found abandoned, and often damaged, in roads, gardens and public parks around the city.
Albert Asseraf, a director general at JCDecaux, responsible for Vélib’ said maintenance and repair teams were working on repairing the damage and introducing a new security system.
“We have reinforced the access points so they are more difficult to get to,” Asseraf said. He described the damage as the result of “irresponsible and absurd acts”.
Paris police said they were looking into whether the “acts of sabotage” were carried out by an organised gang or individuals wishing to return home after a late night out by another means than by foot.
The spate of thefts and vandalism has been likened to the 1948 Italian film Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) directed by Vittorio De Sica, in which a poor man searches the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle, which he needs in order to work. The film was in the top 10 of the British Film Institute’s list of 50 films to see before the age of 14.
Vélib’ was introduced five years ago and became the model for similar projects in other cities, including London.
There are now 23,500 bikes parked at 1,400 self-service points across the French capital. An estimated 130m journeys have been made since its launch, around 110,000 every day, mostly by people travelling to and from their jobs. In five years the number of cyclists in Paris has risen by 41%.