Monday, April 21, 2008

Paris by Bike

After two months in Paris, I finally got to check out the latest and greatest way to get around the City of Lights: Vélib'. Vélib' is a system of public bikes that the mayor had installed all over the city. You can sign up online or rent right from the machine at the docking stations, and away you go! It's inexpensive, the stations are numerous and easy to find, and everyone is doing it. We picked up bikes in the 17ème and decided to make our way across town to the Luxembourg Gardens. After a bit of wrangling with the unfortunately uncooperative rental machine, I adjusted my seat, checked the brakes, prayed it wouldn't started raining, and pushed off into the streets.

Since driving in Paris is a bit of an extreme sport, I was a little worried about entering the game with only two wheels and my sense of balance to protect me. But, other than a few run-ins with unruly roundabouts and unfriendly buses, the 30 minute ride went like a charm. As it turns out, biking is a great way to experience Paris. The challenge of being out there in traffic with all the cars makes you feel like you're really a part of the city. With the wind in your face you zoom down Boulevard St. Michel, cross the Seine, catch a glimpse of Notre Dame, cruise up the Rue de Rivoli, bike the length of the Louvre, navigate past the Concorde and finally pedal slowly through quiet neighborhoods of cobblestone streets. I started to wonder what I had been doing down in the metro all this time. Above ground travel is so much more fun!

Vélib' is clearly Paris' newest must-see attraction. The bikes allow newcomers a chance to orient themselves and quickly and gives residents a chance to view the city from a different angle. Bonus: your two-wheeled tour guide comes outfitted with a front-end basket; perfect for transporting that Parisian picnic you bought at the market. Pedal your way to a flowering park and enjoy.

5 comments:

France Hotels said...

I read about this system a while back and it sounds like a fantastic idea. Has it alleviated Paris' traffic problems or has the take-up been less than anticipated?

Tanya said...

From what I could tell on Sunday, the bikes are a huge success! Everywhere you looked you saw people on velib' and many didn't look like tourists - they just looked like average Parisians getting from point A to point B. Not sure about the traffic, though I have heard complaints about the mayor's new bus and bike only lanes making traffic worse. I think this one is to be determined.

Peter Daams said...

Question; do you have to be a resident to use this system? I know many travellers would be interested, but I've heard that you need a Paris address to actually use it. True or false? :)

Tanya said...

You don't need a Paris address, but to rent from the machines that are located next to the bikes you do need a credit card/debit card that has a "puce," which is a little micro chip on the card. Unfortunately, the vast majority of American cards to not have this technology. I'm not sure if other European countries use it or not. It really is too bad that this layer of bureaucracy was put into the system.

Tanya said...

Update: I've learned from a European source that other European countries do indeed use cards with the "puce" technology. So some tourists can take advantage of Velib...just not Americans.