I snapped this picture of a Parisian dude heading to work during rush hour. Not only is he sportin’ a suit while speeding along on his bike, but he is on a public bike rental with perfectly situated hair and appears sweat-free.
FINALLY, something affordable in Paris – the city-sponsored Vélib’ self service bike system. We are talking ~1 euro to rent a bike for the day. With 1,800 bike stations located every 300 meters, you can easily pick up one of the 20,000 rental bikes in Paris. Students, businesspeople and tourists alike can be seen riding these rental bikes at all hours of the day. In fact, one Parisian told me she and her friends love hopping on the bikes after a night out at the bars. She says biking home and getting fresh air is way more satisfying than sitting next to inebriated people on a bus. For night time safety, these bad boys are equipped with automatic front and rear lights, in addition to reflective strips on the wheels and pedals.
Advertising firm JCDecaux are funding the entire program in exchange for exclusive rights to ~1,600 billboards across the city. The agency explored various design options, but opted to prioritize pragmatism over the traditional aesthetic form. The Vélib’ bikes have a lot of character, and on top of that, they are durable and stand out from personally owned bikes to deter people from wanting to steal them. Bonus: A wire-framed basket is included to store your baguette, handbag or macarons.
Here is how it works:
1) Each bike rental station has a computerized kiosk where you can pay with your credit card to release a bike. You can pay for day use or weekly use. The day rate is $1.10 euro! Yearly and monthly subscriptions can be purchased online.
2) The rate stays the same, as long as you “dock” your bike every 30 minutes. Just make sure you drop off your bike at a station every 30 minutes. This is completely attainable as the stations are closely situated and on flat terrain.
Surprisingly, cars seem to obediently yield to bikers. While riding, I have accidentally forgotten to yield before crossing the street during moments of jet-lag and I am still in once piece (no one has even honked at me or exhibited any amount of road rage).
On a recent bike tour, I asked the local guide if cars actually stop for bikes. Her response was very matter-of-fact: “Of course they do because they are polluting the Earth and we are not.” Well put.
1) In order to pay for a bike at a kiosk, you need a credit card with a chip. Credit cards with chips are commonplace in Paris, but not as common for Americans. So, make sure you attain a chipped card so you don’t get shut out.
2) Some of the bike stations near tourist spots and main thoroughfares can run out of bikes during peak times so factor that into your schedule. I have not found this to be problematic as if one station is dry, I usually find another station within 5-8 minutes. Note: You get a free 15 extra minutes if the station is fully occupied in order to return your bike to the next closest location.
3) If you are cost conscious, make sure you keep track of the time as the rental rates exponentially increase the longer the bikes are out.
4) There is a Vélib’ iPhone application that shows you the location of every bike station and up-to-date availability of bikes and parking.