Tue 11 Dec
Now I’m in Paris and yes, as always, it’s absolutely beautiful. This evening, a light rain brushed the city, leaving a gorgeous, cinematic glaze on every surface. They make everything look right here, even if it’s only as humble as a fleeting bout of precipitation.
This afternoon, I got a brief tutorial on how to use the city’s famous Vélib shared bicycle system, in which a credit card will get you access to any one of a fleet of readily available bikes stored in public racks all over the city. It’s ingeniously designed and, apparently, also massively successful.
My favorite part, though, is one user innovation that’s already become widely understood among the thousands of regular Vélib customers (or so I’m told): while parked at a rack, a seat turned backwards is an indication that that particular bicycle has a flat tire, a broken chain or some other fault, and other users should avoid it. Though the rental system itself is a modern marvel — GPS chips track all of the bikes constantly, and computerized help redirects customers returning bikes to nearby locations when a given rack is full — there’s still room for a simple hack like this for users to create added value for the community at large. That’s good design at work, because the system’s users are also, in part, the system’s designers. Awesome.