This past weekend we took the train to Paris to celebrate Doreen’s birthday. Our main goal was to visit the typical tourist sites using the Vélib’ bikeshare program. We had a blast, managing three outings/rides, each shown on the map below (blue,red, and green). Not quite 60 kilometres in total.
To use the system, one needs to join via the official Vélib’ web site or at one of the abundant bike stations. We had two 1 day subscriptions. It costs €1.70/day. This includes unlimited rides. Each ride is free if under 30 minutes. After 30 minutes small charges accrue. In other words, extra fees can be avoided by frequently changing bikes. Perfect for stopping to see the sites mid-ride.
We were staying near Place Vendôme and had a bike station beside our lodging – so we were surrounded by famous tourist sites. There is no need to have a map of stations (although an app exists) as they are everywhere. Unlike my experience in London, we never saw a bike station without plenty of bikes. And the bikes were consistently in good shape. Tires inflated, gears working, a bell, a kick-stand, etc. Excellent.
A few photos:
Place de la Concorde:
On both sides of the River Seine are roads down by the water that don’t have cars. Very nice cycling, if lots of pedestrians on Sunday:
This is the 3rd giant city we’ve visited to use a bike share program. Rome’s program had collapsed and we had to hire bikes and a guide. It could be scary at times riding there: traffic/crazy drivers/few lanes/etc. London was better, and lots of fun, but Paris was easily the best in terms of city infrastructure, and quality/availability of bikes. We also hugely enjoyed using the bike-share program in the smaller Torino. EDIT: We have since had excellent trips to Vienna and Berlin.
The city is generally flat. But the road up Montmartre to Sacré Cœur was very steep. Success:
Paris, of course, has a lot of traffic and loads of tourists, so one needs to be sensible and cautious on a bike. But bike lanes are marked everywhere. Many of the biggest roads have segregated bus/bike lanes. As shown above, there are quiet roads down by the river. And finally, on Sunday we found a few sections of the city with roads closed to cars. Around Luxembourg Gardens:
We rode both up and down the Champs-Elysée. It is definitely uphill to the Arc de Triomphe.
We did go in the Louvre, but generally were having so much fun that we had little interest going inside museums/stores/churches. Riding was more fun.
We’re sold. Visiting a city on bike can be much more fun than using the Metro, a taxi, or by foot. Next time we head to Paris, we’ll definitely be using the Vélib’ bikes again. Feel free to suggest other cities with well run bike-share programs.