Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
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.
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 make 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.
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 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 onto the bilingual website http://en.velib.paris.fr, 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.
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. Make sure before selecting a bike that it is in acceptable condition. By the way, there is a detailed map of the neighbourhood behind each Vélib’ station which can be very useful, most of all, when at special times and special spots there is no free place to give your bike back.