What’s up with all those bikes?
If you’ve been to Paris in the last year and a half and you didn’t spend your entire visit slugging back Côtes du Rhône and camembert, you might remember having seen a whole lot of bikes. Like, loads and loads of them. Huge, industrial looking, cumbersome, with standard metal baskets? These curious contraptions belong to a new form of transportation known as the Vélib. A combination of “vélo” (bike), and “liberté”, (freedom), the Vélib offers tourists and locals just that: bikes and freedom.
The Green Way to see Paris
As long as you have a credit card or an ATM card (is anyone still using traveler’s checks these days?) you can rent a bike for a day, a week, even for a year! The way it works is this: [social_buttons] The city has installed a ton of bike stations (called “bacs”) throughout Paris and outlying suburbs with 12 to 30 bikes at each station. Once you choose a bike (look for flat tires, broken chains and any other flaws, because once you rent one, you’re stuck with it for 15 minutes!), you’ll find a little machine where you can rent the bike with your aforementioned credit card. The first time you rent a Vélib’, the machine will take out a deposit of 150 euros from your account, which you’ll get back once you return the bike. This keeps ne’er’-do-well’s from stealing the darn thing.
Paris by bike
The bikes cost nothing for the first 30 minutes, 1 euro for the second 30 minutes, and onwards and upwards, if you’re pulling a Lance Armstrong. Once you’ve rented your bike, you can traverse Paris using bike paths recently built for this purpose. You’ll have to make good use of your bicycle bell, though: Parisians and tourists just love strolling in the bike lane, oblivious to the world.
Easy, fast, and human
Doesn’t it feel good to be above ground? Is it time for a hot chocolate? Just keep your eyes open for a bicycle station (there are 1,451 in the city!), push your bicycle back into the terminal, wait for the flashing green light, and voilà, you’re done! Make sure to spend at least 15 minutes drinking that hot cocoa- this is the minimum amount of time you have to wait between each rental. Why? To make sure that no one is hogging all the bikes!
Vélib, je t’aime!
I live in Paris and I think this is one of the most innovative things to happen here since the Pyramid was built in front of the Louvre. So many people come through Paris with only days to see the city- why spend your precious time underground when you can view Paris on wheels?
Photo credit: Sarah Sosiak under a Creative Commons License