Paris awards Velib bicycle hiring scheme to new operator

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PARIS (Reuters) - Paris has awarded the operation of its pioneering Velib bicycle hire scheme to French-Spanish consortium Smoovengo, officials said on Wednesday.

A Paris city official said Smoovengo would provide lighter and stronger bicycles - a third of which will be electric - to Paris and surrounding municipalities under a 600 million euro contract that will run from 2018 to 2032.

Velib’s 20,000 heavy grey bikes and 1,800 docking stations, which have inspired bike-sharing schemes in cities worldwide, will be replaced in a few weeks this winter.

The Smoovengo consortium is led by Montpellier-based privately held firm Smoove, which operates city bike rental schemes in several French cities, and a string of international cities including Helsinki, Moscow, Chicago, Vancouver, Bangkok and Marrakech.

French outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux, which has operated the scheme for the past decade, has said it will appeal the tender award.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq