Not rocket science any more

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Reviewed on 09/7/2011 | No Reviews

My Concierge Told Me

The Vélib’ services have been improved

What is the best way to get around when in Paris? By bike, of course. It’s just the right pace if you want to discover the city. You didn’t bring yours? No problem. Take a velib from the self-service bike hire scheme.

Photo: © AFP, François Guillot

The velibs (from velo, bike and libre, free) made their appearance on Paris streets in July 2007. Except during the first few years of the service it wasn’t that easy for foreigners to hire a bike. A lot of tourists must have asked themselves how the French managed to transform something quite easy into a highly complicated procedure needing at last a PhD. It wasn’t rocket science? No, but it looked like it to many people. You also needed a credit card with chip, but in a lot of countries this is just not in  general use.

A piece of cake

Meanwhile, this summer (2011), the scheme has been improved to make things easier. And they definitely are: You can book your bike before even arriving in Paris. No more wasting time at a station, no more desperation trying to figure out the instructions! An online booking service has been set up and from now on you can buy your subscription easily from home: you just need to go on the bilingual website, there’s a Spanish version too, select the starting date and time and pay with a credit card (Visa, Mastercard or American Express).

The rates remain extremely affordable: €1.70 for a one-day subscription and €8 for a week’s subscription. The first 30 minutes of each new trip are always free of charge, making the Vélib’ a cheap and convenient way to get around Paris and the suburbs.

You better check your bike before

The service is available 24 hours a day, all year around. Meanwhile, the Parisian self-service bike hire scheme has a fleet of 20,000 bicycles available at 1,800 docking stations in Paris and surrounding towns. Just turn up at a station, go to a terminal and follow on-screen instructions. Before selecting a bike, make sure that it is in an acceptable condition. By the way, there is a detailed map of the neighbourhood behind each Vélib’ station which can be very useful – mostly, when there is no free place to give your bike back.


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