Bicycling in Paris

My next travel question of the day: I've noticed Paris is a popular place for bicycling. If my travel companion and I rent bicycles when we are in Paris for 3 days (mid June), how well do bikes serve as a transportation mode to see the main tourist sites, as suggested by the pro Rick Steves?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Since nobody has stepped up, here's some thoughts (sources or lack of indicated): Direct/semi-direct experience: When I was a youngster I rode borrowed bikes and scooters around the city. The traffic made it sporty even though it was much less dense than it is now. The real problem was finding something to chain it to so nobody would swipe it. Whatever you could find wasn't always handy to where you wanted to go. By leaving it even slightly remote, you often could have walked just as fast. My daughter spent four years at the Sorbonne and lived in couple or three areas. Depending on where, she had either a scooter or a bike. She eventually got rid of the bike and only used the scooter for periodic excursions because of the parking problems I noted. Walking or the metro were easier. Some streets (generally the major ones) have bus/taxi lanes which are less congested. Bikes may use them. A bike may not be ridden on sidewalks, pedestrian squares, etc. Stuff I think I know: Fat Tire Bike Tours, and probably others, do about what the name implies. No further knowledge.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Places exist from which you can rent a bike for the day. No further knowledge, but I'd assume the tie-up problem would still be a factor. The remainder of the discussion has to do with the operation that showed up six or seven years ago -- Velib bikes. Beware, I might not even know what I think I know. I think it was governmetally developed to ease traffic/metro congestion. It was designed for local short-term commutes, but tourists are able to use it. To use it requires a chip and pin card. The first half hour is free, after that it escalates: one euro for the next half hour, two for the next, four for the next, etc. -You may pick it up at one rack and deposit it at any other. If the destination rack is full, you can swipe your card and be given some free extra minutes to find another. There is no limit to the number of free first half hours, but there is a horrible kicker - - each credit card generated pick-up takes a 150 euro deposit off the card and the deposit refund can take up to two weeks. I know in my heart that there has to be a work-around or the residents wouldn't use it - - maybe an annual or short-term subscription that takes only one deposit and issues a code - - beats me. I've walked by the machines, but never studied one.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

Take some time to investigate the public rental bike system in Paris. There are unattended stands all over Paris, I mean ALL over. For a small annual fee (20 EU?) you use your card to unlock the bike from the rack, then you get it for free for 20 minutes, then a very small hourly rate there after. So you rent the bike, go where you are going, the turn it in by putting in the rack near your destination, do you thing, then rerent and move on. Very slick system. Bike lanes all over Paris. Posting from the road, so no time to research details for you.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2633 posts

Velib is an urban bike-share program. There are hundreds of Velib stations around Paris. You check out a bike from any station an return it to any station. Paris has been made more bike-friendly with lanes and other amenities. The program is popular with Parisians. A friend who was in Paris without a chip-and-pin card reports that she was able to rent bikes for her family online. Like other bike-share programs, the cost of renting increases with length of trip. You pay a flat membership fee (per day, week, year) and the first 30 minutes of rental are free. You can rent serially all day by riding for 30 minutes, retuning the bike, then renting another. You can pay more and get a 45-minutes-free deal. The bikes are heavy and sturdy and not particularly sporty. They should never be left unattended. When returned they are locked to a base station. They should never be left unattended. On the other hand, you don't have to rent a lock. If you rent bicycles for 3 days, they will be better bikes and you will not have to worry about returning them in 30 minutes. However you will have to worry about locking them or storing them both overnight and during the day.

Posted by Chery
Ojai
18 posts

Thank you, all of you, for the excellent information. I know theft is a big problem, also here in the States. We cyclists rarely leave our bikes unlocked or unattended, depends upon the venue. Sounds like the city bike share program is the right ticket. When in Paris, act like the Parisians! This should be geat fun! Thank you, thank you! Here's what I found online: http://en.velib.paris.fr/
Velib Paris - the bike share system. It's amazing and really extensive. If you know where you are going and don't ride for more than 30-45 mins at a time, depending upon the type of ticket you choose, you can travel anywhere in the heart of Paris for very little cost. (Of course, you can also walk for even less.)

Posted by Chery
Ojai
18 posts

FYI Montreal tourists - my travel companion has informed me Montreal has a similar bike share program, great for toodling from place to place.

Posted by Suzanne
Mount Prospect, Illinois, USA
9 posts

One of my favorite memories is biking the streets of Paris. Also biking from the train to Monets Garden. Enjoy.

Posted by Curt
Kansas City
52 posts

Renting a bike for a day would be expensive, I checked Fat Tire Bike Tours last year and it was like 25e/day. I have used the Velib system ta past two years and it is the way to go. You get a subscription/membership for 1 day of 7 days, you get it all set up here in the states then when you go to Paris you enter a code, maybe swipe your credit card (can't remember) pick a bike and go. If you ride it all over town without putting it back in a station it can get a bit pricey but for example we got one by Rue de Commerce park, rode it to Lux gardens, put it in the rack the strolled around that area an afternoon. The first 30 minutes are free. Another time we rode all over Paris, for like 4 hours and the charge for the two bikes was maybe 25e. We just got lazy and didn't exchange them. Great system, go to the velib site and learn about it.
One thing I would recommend is taking a Fat Tire Bike Tour. We did a night tour and it was the highlight of our trip. Also took then to a tour of Versailles and it was a blast.

Posted by Chery
Ojai
18 posts

Again, thank you all! All the advice has been superb! I'm eager to see the Gardens and take the Fat Tire Bike tours.