The French TV announced the sixth fatal accident in Paris of a user of Velib bicycle self-service since its launching on July 15th, 2007.
They did not mention the number of deadly accidents implying cyclists using their own bicycle.
Any person having visited Paris will have noted that the traffic is particularly dense and often risky. Cohabitation between cyclists, busses, taxis, heavy trucks and vehicles of delivery is particularly dangerous because these vehicles are generally authorized to drive on the same lanes as the bicycles!
These accidents with Velib users were almost all due to a truck or bus turning right without having seen the cyclist on their side; the traditional problem of “the dead angle”.
If you are a tourist in Paris and want to drive a bicycle be particularly careful. This city does not have the infrastructures reserved exclusively to the cyclists such as in Amsterdam for example.
Best is to choose for your cycling days of less traffic like Sundays or the periods of holidays like August.
There is a face of Velib which is rather sad.
Since July 2007 there have been 18.000 degradations, 8.000 thefts, 3.500 complaints at the police, according to the French press.
It goes from warped frameworks, twisted handlebars, punctured tires, broken baskets, etc. even bicycles thrown in the Seine!
J.C. Decaux owner of some 20.000 bicycles put into circulation has a subsidiary company Cyclocity with 500 workers for the maintenance. There are 1.500 repairs per day in 10 workshops. They even have a barge for repairs circulating on the Seine.
As a consequence of the increasing degradations, only 46% of the “Vélibistes” declare to be satisfied with the state of the bicycles, against 55% in 2008.
I believe that Paris is one of the world's most walkable cities, and that by far the best way to explore it is on foot. However, even I will concede that there are times when the distance is too far or the time frame is too limited to make walking practical, and yet the idea of diving underground into the Metro is less than attractive.
I confess that I have never cycled in Paris, but the idea of doing so has always appealed - I just never had an idea of where you would hire a bike. However, a few visits ago, I came across this automated bike hire machines along the Rive Gauche (the 'Left Bank' which isn't that helpful to the tourist, as it's actually the southern bank) about halfway between Musee d'Orsay and Notre Dame de Paris, and it seems that with every subsequent visit, they're becoming more numerous.
The photo shows the 'Velib' system (a combination of the French words for bicycle and freedom), which is an innovative concept. At a cost of €1.70 for a day ticket or €8 for a seven day ticket (at the time of writing), you can borrow a bike free of charge for an unlimited number of 30 minute periods per day (with periods longer than 30 minutes incurring an additional charge). There are apparently hundreds of stations across Paris where you can pick up a bike, and as a bonus, you can drop it off at any station (not just the one you collected it at). See the website below for more details.
You need to be realistic about what you get for your money: this is a fairly sedate three speed unisex bike, so you're not going to be tempted to join the peleton down the Champs-Élysées at the end of the Tour de France on the spur of the moment, but these are sturdy, serviceable bikes, and this would be a really fun way to explore the city in good weather.
We came across stands of bicycles as we were walking through Paris and checked out the rules but ultimately decided to use our feet instead of the bicycles. After I got home I checked out what the bicycles rented for in case we wanted to use them on a future trip and found that there are a few pitfalls to renting them, seems they are designed more for locals to use for short term communting than tourists for recreational cycling.
Some of the pitfalls are that they don't seem to take credit cards without chips although they do appear to accept AmEx. However, you can purchase a 1 or 7 day pass online which then requires you to put in a PIN and an ID number. If you use a debit card (and possibly credit cards as well) they can put a hold on your account for up to 13 days, one complaint I read suggested that they charged a € 150 deposit every time they rented them and held € 450 of their money for their 3 rentals for almost 2 weeks.
If you get the 1 € day pass (or week pass or yearly pass), the 1st 1/2 hour is free and then:
1st additional half hour is 1 €
2nd additional half hour is 2 €
From the 3rd additional half hour 4€ per additional half hour
So an hour would be 1 €, 2 hours would be 7 €, 3 hours would be 15 € and so on. So it's great for short journeys, not so great if you are planning on keeping the bike for the day unless you plan on continually returning the bike and then getting a new one. The last pitfall I'll mention is that it is possible for stations to be entirely full not allowing you to return the bike as they are not manned by people but rather by machines.
If you are still interested in the Velib system after reading this, you might check out cycling enthusiast Nemorino's general Paris tips as he offers a lot of good information about using the system.
I have written a transport tip about hiring a bike in Paris, which is something that I'd still like to do.
On my most recent trip to Paris, I walked the length of Canal St Martin from just east of Gare de l'Est to where the canal joins the Seine, a distance of about 4km. It was a glorious early autumn day that was perfect for cycling, and I was deeply envious of people sailing by on their bikes.
If it's your first time cycling in Paris (and particularly if you come from a country which drives on the other side of the road) I would start on the dedicated cycle paths - along Canal St Martin and the banks of the Seine for example - before you venture forth to play with the traffic! Alternatively, book on an organised tour - I was most amused to be passed by a tour group, where the tourists were being shepherded by two guides - one at the front and one at the back, where the guy at the back of the group was carrying a warning red flag! See the website below for details of one of several operators.
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”
— H. G. Wells (1866-1946)
During our July 2008 visit, bicycling was à la mode à Paris. The city had a year-old rental program that provided bikes for short-term public use. The bikes, known as vélib’s (a contraction of vélo, meaning bike, and liberté, which means free), can be rented at, and returned to stands throughout the city.
Launched on 15.July.2007 with 10,000 bicycles at 750 automated rental stations, each with 15 or more bikes/spaces, the program has proven to be a great success. Its popularity has caused the authorities to increase the number of vélibs to 20,000, at 1,450 stations.
Each station is equipped with an automated rental terminal and spaces for dozens of bicycles. At each station a map shows the location of all other stations. Each rental terminal displays the locations and numbers of available bicycles and free spots at neighboring vélib stations. If a rider arrives with a rented bicycle at a station without free spots, the terminal grants another 15 minutes of free rental time.
The system is based upon a subscription program, which allows each subscriber an unlimited number of rentals. Daily, weekly or annual subscriptions are available at a rate of 1, 5, or 29 euros respectively. For a rider with a subscription, bike rental is free for every trip’s first half hour; an unlimited number of these free trips can be made daily. A trip lasting longer than 30 minutes is charged one to four euros for each additionally 30-minute period. The sturdy gray vélibs weigh 49.6 pounds and feature three speeds; an LED light, that is always on; a lock; and a front basket.
Either a credit card or a debit card is needed to subscribe and to rent. The credit or debit card will be charged 150 euros if a rented bike is not returned. All French cards, most European cards are valid because they contain a secure EMV-chip; but few American credit/debit cards will qualify because they still use the less-secure magnetic strip.
Prices and other information are accurate as of this writing, November 2008.
In Paris is a good selection of locations renting city bicycles.
Paris is beautiful. The streets are very smooth. Trip by bike is very frequent, relatively fast, clean, and convenient.
Steel as a short term tourist in Paris walkingand public transportation are better options than bicycling. Bicking is best reserved for longer-term residents of Paris, for those staying for several weeks.
To travel about Paris on a bicycle for business or pleasure, you will use a network of bike lanes, often shared with taxis and buses. When no bike lane exists, which is often, bikers ride with traffic.
The Paris City Hall operates a "Velib'" rental program with thousands of three-speed unisex bikes at hundreds of stations or "service points" around the city.
You can jump on a bike parked in one of hundreds of docking stations around the capital and deposit it at another station across town.
You'll pay €1 for a day ticket or €5 for a seven-day ticket, which lets you take an unlimited number of 30-minute journeys. The first half hour of each journey is free of charge, with charges rising progressively after that.
This city government system, with thousands of bicycles located all over Paris in "stations", allows you to rent a bicycle for one-half hour or less at no cost, and for longer at rapidly increasing rates, providing you have taken out a subscription (inexpensive). Those who wish to subscribe by the day or week do so at the automatic computer terminals located at the bicycle stations. You need a credit card for the day and weekly subscriptions, and presumably you are charged at least €150 if you don't return the bicycle. You can search in advance for bicycle rental stations by entering your address on the velib internet site mentioned above, but in theory they will soon be located every few hundered meters throughout Paris.
Since the summer of 2007 there are grey bicycles all over Paris. They stand at the roadside and can be rented by inserting a credit card in a slot. Cost is half an hour free, one hour thereafter 1 euro, The scheme is very popular. When the time is over, the bicycle can be replaced at any of the bicycle stands throughout Paris.
There are specially designated tracks for cyclists, sometimes on the pavement, sometimes at the side of the road or with the bus track. A white bicycle painted on a blue circle may denote the track.
Seems like Paris is stepping up efforts to turn itself into a bicycle-friendly capital after all.
Velo-taxis have different shape but all are powered by human power.
You will also see Cyclobulle - a new electrically powered way to discover a different Paris.
The Velo-taxis ride costs from €2.5 to €4.5 per person to predefined tourist destinations.
Rates for Cyclobulle : €25 for a 30 minute ride
Since summer 2007 there is an exciting bicycle plan in Paris called Velib. You pick up a bike from one of the bike stations and leave it again at the bike station nearest to where you want to be. From there you do the same.
It's a very low cost, healthy and fun way to explore!
Click here for more info on how this works.
The velib' is an acronym for Vélo Liberté (bike freedom)
Since July 2007, over 20 000 self service bikes are available all over Paris (there is a station about every 400 meters). The bikes are unisex and adjustable (fit anybody over 1,40 m)
How does it work ?
First you get a a subscription (to get a user ID):
1€ for one day (24H), 5€ for a week (both available at the stations) or 29€ for one year. There is a 150€ security deposit blocked on your credit card.
Cards accepted : Chipped cards (Visa or Mastercard or Amex).
Then (using your ID), you pick a bike at any station and once you are done with the bike you just put it back at the next station (push it in any docking point, the bikes are chipped and recognized).
The first half hour is free, second half hour is 1€ and so on (there are other systems for longer rentals, for example see www.rouelibre.fr).
You can use a bike as often as you want during your subscription's validity.
The system is very popular for short rides.
Me, I gave this a miss. I enjoy cycling out and about on the car-free routes around where I live but the idea of cycling on the wrong side of the road in a strange city centre is too scary, especially having noticed the number of cars around Paris with collision dents...sorry but not confident enough ;(
However, for you bold people, Paris offers a cycle hire system with racks of bikes ready for use. You have to register on the site with a credit card to cover a deposit (they don't take the money, merely use your card details for insurance). Then, if I read the site correctly, they send you a smart card and off you go.
The bikes are free for the first half-hour and then cost 1 Euro for each half-hour after that up to a max of 4 Euros per day (if I'm reading the French language site correctly).
But as I said - TOO SCARY FOR ME! I'll stick to walking and the Metro!
I'd not heard of this scheme but we saw several rows of these bikes all waiting to be used. They are part of the Velib' scheme whereby users are allowed up to 30 minutes of free use thereafter the user is charged. It's paid for from a credit card. The bikes can picked up and dropped off at different places.
Sadly I didn't notice anyone actually riding one of these bikes though my wife said she saw a British family using them. I'm not sure, as a visitor to Paris, I would feel comfortable riding around the city - just because I wouldn't be familiar with the territory but it seems to be a good idea though whether it is economically sustainable I don't know.
The website below gives more details of how it works. I think it would be fun to try out.
There are numerous bicycle rental station around Paris. There is, probably, one near where you are staying.
These Velib bicycles can be rental at Euro 1,70 per day and the first 30 minutes is free usage. You can make unlimited number of such free trips per day of less then 30 minutes each time.
We didn't rent one of those as we weren't sure where the rental stations were when we first arrived in Paris and when straight to our hotel. With hindsight, might be worth asking the hotel reception about it and as to where is the nearest rental station.
There was one rental station "behind" our hotel on Porte de Saint Cloud on the other street and there was another about 100 metres away.
While walking around in Paris, we came across many people on these distinct grey coloured bicycles.