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Velib Bikes in Paris

As some of you know, it won't be long now and I'll be off to Paris on my 5-day solo trip to celebrate my "milestone" 60th birthday. Early on, I said that I'm planning to use Velib bikes whenever I can, weather permitting. (I'm also a walking/sometime 5K-runner, so foot-travel is fine too!) I've studied the Velib site -- http://en.velib.paris.fr/ -- and shortly I'll be buying my 7-day ticket for 8E so that I'll already have my PIN when I arrive in Paris. For 8E, how can I go wrong? We used Chicago's similar system last October and it seemed great. HERE'S MY QUESTION: I've noticed others on this forum asking questions about "getting around" in Paris and it seems like nobody mentions Velib bikes as an option . . . so I'm wondering, why is that? Is there some downside or certain insider "tricks" to the Velib system (other than what's on their site) that I should know about -- to minimize frustrations? I know if it's pouring rain it might not be my first choice -- but if there are folks out there with experience in the Velib system, would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Thanks!

Posted by
9 posts

I would be interested to know as well. I'm an avid bicyclist and have used the systems in Washington DC and New York. They were efficient, inexpensive and a great alternative to walking/going underground.

Posted by
16768 posts

I don't think there is any downside other than people usually want to know how to get from A to B as quickly and easily as possible. I've "lit up" the Velib stands with my Navigo card. but I did not pay the Velib fee so it won't unlock a bike. There are marked bike lanes on many Paris streets, and lots of stands to pick up and return bikes. If there is any downside, it may be locating the nearest stand to where you want to go. You can download a map and carry with you. The other downside may be that when you get to your destination, there won't be any return slots in the rack. I don't recall seeing any Velib racks with all the bikes taken, but they can thin out in the morning in residential areas where commuters use them.

Posted by
8293 posts

There used to be a problem using American credit cards without chip & pin for the Velib bikes. Has this been resolved?

Posted by
8397 posts

@Norma: In past threads, people have written that American Express works. The other magnetic strip cards don't. However, there is a way to pay on line.

Posted by
16768 posts

It sounds like the OP is about to pay for a 7 day subscription on line, and receive her PIN and be ready to go.

Posted by
9110 posts

I think the only kicker is that, while the first half hour or so is free each time, after that it get's pretty steep. I also think there's some kind of mechanism where, if the return rack you try is full, you get some small amount of additional time to find another one at no charge.

Posted by
27718 posts

I'm in Paris at the moment, and a keyholder with the Boris Bikes programme in London I rather like urban biking. I didn't use Velib bikes this time because on my first day I noticed (and continued to notice throughout my trip in quite a few quarters in various arrondissements) two kinds of Velib stations - either completely empty or completely full. I was quite disillusioned. To top it off, while there are indeed plenty cycle lanes they seemed to be taken over by motorcycles who were zipping by the stopped other traffic, to the consternation of the taxis and buses.

I wouldn't be comfortable Velibing because of the unreliability of getting and returning bikes, and the traffic relative to bikes is much zooier that London, and with 1 or 2 cyclists killed every week in London that's zooey enough for me.

Posted by
31471 posts

Ruthie,

Congratulations on your 60th birthday!

"I've noticed others on this forum asking questions about "getting around" in Paris and it seems like nobody mentions Velib bikes as an option . . . so I'm wondering, why is that?"

That could be because using the Metro or other public transit (or even walking) is much faster and/or easier, especially during inclement weather. There's no way I'd want to haul myself around Paris on a bicycle, especially with expensive Camera gear. Also, I suffered a severe knee injury a few years ago, so bicycling is not something I enjoy these days (BTW, I'm also 60+).

Cheers!

Posted by
5261 posts

More power to you Ruthie, and happy 60th. I'm somewhere north of there and I wouldn't ride a bike in any big city, but my hat's off to you if you want to try. Speaking of hats, are you bringing a helmet? I wouldn't want to haul one to Europe just to get around Paris when Metro, buses, and walking are so easy. That's assuming I was in shape, which I'm not. Happy riding and watch out for the other Velib riders!

Posted by
9 posts

Full Racks
You can receive additional time for free if the rack is full so you can ride to the next empty one. Of course, that would be problematic since you couldn't stop at your first destination. However, it appears that there may even be multiple bike share racks at any attraction. Just another tip, always make sure you check your bike out before renting it. If there's any damage, it may be tacked to you!

Credit Cards
Most European countries including France only accept chip and pin cards. American magnetic strip cards are outdated and are not accepted at any automated machines. Even cashiers will give you a hard time or frankly, not accept your card. A lot of credit cards companies are, however giving their customers the options of a chip and pin: American Express and Visa have been on board. All you have to do is called your credit card provider and ask if they do chip and pin. If they do, they will change your card for free. It's much safer anyway because you'll need a pink to use your credit card.

Posted by
8286 posts

I'm an avid cyclist, but I wouldn't use a Velib bike. They're expensive, as Ed said, and they're very heavy. They aren't intended for pleasure riding, their sole purpose is to get you from Point A to Point B (I know that's what you intend but for others...). We've rented bikes from shops in Paris many times for the day, which we always enjoy.

Posted by
38 posts

Hmmm, if the similar system in Chicago hadn't worked so well last October, I probably wouldn't be considering it. I remember when my husband and I spent a few days in Kyoto prior to a wedding we were attending there, and biked all over -- we were able to cover so much more than walking. And while we used the trains and buses, it was nice to be able to just stop if we saw something unexpected that we wanted to investigate. (The hotel we stayed at for a few days had bikes that we could use.) However, I didn't think about renting a bike privately in Paris. Now I've compiled a list of a few places where I could rent a bike for a day (or 2 or 3), a couple of them quite close to my hotel--if I decided that's preferable. At the moment I'm thinking that I'll take that list along so that I have that for an option. Thanks again for thoughts and recommendations -- you people are the greatest!

Posted by
4125 posts

Ruthie, I think it is possible that most of the people here, though knowledgeable, are just not familiar with Velib or with any bikeshare system.

They've heard a few things that are partially true, such as the credit card issue (but you can transact online with a US card) or the short-duration issue (which of course is the whole idea of a bikeshare) and conclude it is not workable for Americans.

In truth bikeshares are not designed for tourists, but we can certainly use them, if we understand their limitations. Which it sounds as though you do.

I hope you have a blast with it and return and post a full report about how it worked out.

Posted by
3681 posts

Norma: Is Bixi, the Montreal equivalent, going to survive its financial crisis? Maybe it's too hard to ride in the snowy months?

Posted by
8286 posts

The plusses of renting a bike from a shop are: they are nice bikes, they are much lighter than Velib which makes riding much more fun, they are less expensive than Velib if you want one for a couple hours or more, you can usually get a basket if you want one, and they come with a lock and a helmet.

Posted by
8293 posts

I don't know, to answer Southam's question, if the Montreal Bixi bikes will survive or not. Such a brilliant & popular idea but it seems to have been mismanaged, as have so many other things in this city which I love dearly but which aggravates me to distraction. We live in hope.

Posted by
38 posts

Hello All -- It's my last night in Paris and while it's fresh in my mind, want to report on my Velib bike experience. Before leaving I bought the 8E 7-day Velib pass, so had an 8-digit # and a 4-digit pin. Used the Velib bikes on the first day and every day of my 5-day trip -- but not exclusively, as I thought I might. As others suggested, I ran into the problem of arriving at my destination and finding the rack completely full. Tonight, I start at Station #1, kiosk told me there were slots at Station #2, arrived there, it was full, went to Station #3 and found a slot, then had to walk back to my destination. So, that was a little frustration. A better pdf/printed map of stations might help too. As to traffic -- I'm a pretty adventurous 60-year-old, but some might not like biking in Paris traffic so well. It does seem that drivers watch for cyclists pretty well. Often, the BIKE lane is shared with the BUS lane -- that's kinda fun. :) After day one, I just decided the driver didn't want to hit a cyclist. I never saw a single person wear a bike helmet all week. For the 8E, I'd say that overall it worked pretty well for me -- saved me time over walking at times and I enjoyed the adventure. On Saturday, I biked from my hotel (Latin Quarter area) out to the Paris Expo for the Agriculture show. Saw things/neighborhoods that I would not have seen on the Metro. (I did have to stop once to change bikes.) But I agree, the Metro is pretty simple. For my 5 days, I started with a pack of 10 tickets and did buy one extra today -- so overall my local/ground transportation was a pretty cheap proposition. Let me know of any other questions about Velib and I'll try to answer -- again, while it's fresh in my mind..

Posted by
9110 posts

Observation: The old broad is hell on wheels.

Posted by
8397 posts

Great info, Ruthie.
BTW, those were created as bus lanes. Later they decided to let bikes use them too.