A few days ago Patrick posted about the vandalism and theft that threatened to end Vélib', Paris's experiment in large-scale bikesharing. The New York Times and the BBC both ran the story too.But according to Ben Fried at Streetsblog, the rumors about Vélib's problems have been spread (and greatly exaggerated) by Vélib's own operators, JCDecaux, as a PR ploy. Here's why:"The basic structure of the Vélib contract works like this. JCDecaux runs the whole system in exchange for the rights to 1,600 outdoor displays, turning its profit from selling that ad space. The city of Paris keeps the revenue from Vélib' user fees, so it can claim to provide the service at no taxpayer expense. Now, with the full Paris network of 20,600 bicycles and 1,451 stations completed, penalties for inadequate maintenance are in the process of taking effect. Hence the hue and cry from JCDecaux."Comments on Patrick's post (see the ones by Carahenson and 13Strong) suggest the system is working pretty well. What do you think? Were we had?Either way, one lesson to be learned here for other bike sharing programs is that the entity running the system shouldn't just be custodians of the bikes, they should own them, otherwise they have an incentive to scapegoat mischievous kids when bikes get damaged or stolen.