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Repairing and maintaining a public bicycle system: the case of Vélib' in Paris

Abstract : Valued for its 'planet friendly' character, these systems have become the hallmark for cities that want to become part of the so-called 'green culture'. The Vélib' program is the largest system of its kind in the world, with 1800 stations and 20600 bikes. This paper intends to analyze the Vélib' system by considering an often ignored, but essential dimension on the subject: the invisible work, which about 400 agents realize on a daily basis to maintain the functioning of this sustainable mobility program. This presentation will analyse the plurality of operations through which the Vélib' system is updated 24 hours a day. It does so by drawing on interviews and ethnographic observations made in a repair workshop, as well as observations made through accompanying technicians in the field. Through the description of the knowledge and the know-how mobilized by agents, I will show how these actors, through their daily contact with the city and users, become real "sociologists" of mobility and of the users. The urban ecology appears to the maintenance agents as a real field of exploration and experiment, a space inhabited by uncertainty, which the agents have to repair and maintain by a diversity of instruments and practices
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Submitted on : Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 10:34:13 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 12:33:10 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Monday, May 20, 2013 - 3:59:16 AM


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  • HAL Id : hal-00786936, version 1


Martin Tironi. Repairing and maintaining a public bicycle system: the case of Vélib' in Paris. Proceedings of the 22nd International Cycling History Conference, Paris, France, May 2011, Cycling History (Publishing) Ltd, pp.220-223, 2012. ⟨hal-00786936⟩



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