Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007
Velib is the new bike rental system that will hopefully be a handy alternative to sore feet. The ambitious new bike rental system will eventually have rental stations in every arrondissement. You can check out the map for the planned locations.
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The rental system is supposed to be pretty easy. You can rent the bike either by the day (1 Euro for the day) the week (5 Euros for the week) or the year (29 Euros). Whatever time frame you choose, the first 30 minutes are free (meaning there’s no additional charge other than the 1 Euro ‘subscription’ ticket) You begin paying after the first 30 minutes. You need to use a credit card for the transaction and a 150 Euro deposit (which isn’t withdrawn from your card, but which is held as a deposit until the bike is returned.) For 29 Euros you can buy a year subscription i.e. 30 minutes a day for as many days as you like (after the 1st 30 minutes, the additional time is deducted from your 29 Euros annual fee). In this case, you need to wait about fifteen days before you receive your membership card in the mail. The short term rentals can be purchased right at the bike rental location.
If you are wondering about the safety of riding a bike in Paris, I can only tell you this – I’ve seen people riding fearlessly down the Champs Elysees – and even once around Etoile (Arc de Triomphe). Bicyclists do tend to get a little more respect in this town – and motorycylists as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are bruise-free. Sunday is the ideal day for bike riding because the route along the Seine is closed off to car traffic. The two leafy parks on the borders of Paris are ideal for biking if you find the streets of Paris to be too intimidating – try the Bois de Vincennes for starters to the east of Paris. Bike touring companies like Paris a Velo, C’est sympa! organize tours in quiet parts of Paris, but also along the Marne river.
If you’re visiting Paris in late July and August, you’re in luck because the traffic tends to thin out – thanks to the number of Parisians who’ve left town to cool off by the sea.
If you plan on visiting the Chateau de Versailles’ newly restored Hall of Mirrors, you can also rent bicycles at the far end of the gardens way past the Petit and Grand Trianon. (This is the part of the Versailles gardens where Parisians bring their kids to ride bikes on a Sunday afternoon).
This GPS guide won’t be attached to any of the Velib’s but I came across this display at the FNAC store on Rue de Rennes – I thought the display was very imaginative.