From the entrance to the large hangar of Vélib 'in Villeneuve-la-Garenne (Hauts-de-Seine), the parking sets the tone: it is invaded on a good part of heap of bikes, some almost in the state of wrecks. "And again, a few days ago, there were two times more," says Pierre Heyraud, director of operations for Smovengo, the company responsible for running the new Vélib 'for 18 months.
"The number of bikes is not at the rendezvous"
Thanks to a new organization and recruitments, Smovengo has indeed been able to increase its bicycle collection and repair capacity. A necessity while Smovengo reinjects more and more bicycles (19 000 expected at the end of the month against 13 000 today), to redress the bar face, including requests from users and elected officials.
"The number of bicycles is not at the rendezvous", lamented on Monday the Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of Transport, Christophe Najdovski on the occasion of the Paris council. The day before, Anne Hidalgo already mentioned a number of Vélib '"insufficient". Christophe Najdovski also asked Smovengo to rectify the "technical weaknesses" of cycling and "work on maintenance".
"The big game: breaking the taillights"
But if Smovengo has put himself in order of battle in his workshops, it is also to absorb the huge mass of vandalism that victims of self-service bikes. "In the other cities where we have bikes, in Clermont, Montpellier, Helsinki, Moscow, they do not return. Nobody knows so much degradation, "says Pierre Heyraud.
To see the state of some Vélib 'in these workshops, it is understood. These twisted wheels, these ripped cables, these cases on the shattered handlebars are not just the after-effects of heavy use, or the result of an accident. But indeed an unleashing of free violence on bicycles.
"We have the impression that the big game in Paris is to break the rear lights of Vélib '," adds another executive Smovengo, disappointed. Other examples of vandalism asserted and assumed: bicycles repainted, burned or thrown to the Seine are in the tens.
Some disappear altogether
And sometimes we lose track: 600 to 1,000 bikes are stolen or privatized each week! Smovengo recovers a good part not always intact, but, in net value, it is 100 to 300 bikes that disappear purely and simply every week. To recover them, regular marauding is done by the teams in the field. And Smovengo tries somehow to save what is possible on these bored bikes.
"This phenomenon of voluntary degradation has caught us a little bit short, recognizes Pierre Heyraud. It slows down our ability to repair. Where we could repair 400 bikes per day with 60 people, we only repair 300. "Difficult however to quantify precisely the proportion of deliberately degraded bikes compared to those victims of normal wear and tear associated with heavy use (a Vélib 'makes up to 10 journeys a day).
60% of repairs related to vandalism
"My impression is that about 60% of the damage is due to vandalism, continues Pierre Heyraud. We rely on the number of repairs to make on a bike. Normally it's 3 or 4 per bike. There, we are at 8 or 9 ". And sometimes even fifteen major breakdowns to repair. That's why Smovengo has recruited, internally, a team of specialized repairers who have been working all day in Villeneuve-La-Garenne since last month.
But that's not always enough. "Sometimes we call on specialists in major external repairs, for punching operations to repair hundreds of bicycles," explains Pierre Heyraud. And so empty the parking of wrecks that accumulate …