Vélib’ story


When I said to my daughter that my next post would be on vélib’, she raised her eyebrows in disbelief. “Vélib’ but that’s old news!”. The vélib’ (or the free bicycle) was first introduced in Paris three years ago.

Perhaps, but for me it is news! As a Parisian living  abroad and visiting every six months or so, I  thought only tourists used those bicycles.  I always liked  the Metro(politain), the Parisian subway. Walking in Paris is also a treat. Yet, each time I came back to Paris,  I saw more and more people riding those vélib’s.  I started spotting real Parisians  using this alternative mean of locomotion,  leaving home on a bike in the morning, and finding a new one for their return trip in the evening. It was not unusual  to see men or women dressed up in business attire stepping off their vélib’ to run to an appointment. ( I still find it quite dangerous to ride the bikes with stilettos,a skirt and no helmet!). So, this time I decided to give it a try . What the heck! It was Summer, the weather was lovely and I had time … even for an accident.

And, as you see,  I had a great time!

20,000 bicycles and 1,639 stations, roughly one station every 300 metres throughout the city centre

The pros:

  • Great sense of freedom: Paris Je T’Aime!
  • A different way to enjoy the city  crisscrossing from one district to another
  • Visiting without shopping a +++++!
  • Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe was clever enough to create  all those bicycle lanes
  • vélib’ parking spots are easy to find everywhere over  the city
  • You exercise and you don’t feel it! this is a great ++++!
  • The vélib’ is  very cleverly thought: integrated bicycle lock, useful basket…

The Con’s

  • Quiet dangerous if caught up in heavy traffic. I was not able to find the exact number of accidents but the rumor in Paris is… many.
  • The vélib’ are often rotten ( with all due respect to the Decaux company which is running the show)

My tips

  1. Better to use a pass Navigo ( bought in the subway)
  2. If you use your credit card ( and not the pass), be careful of overdraft:  there is a deposit of 150 euros per velib’ (The price is one euro per hour. it is free for the first half an hour). if you have a large family, it is a problem…
  3. Check out your bicycle before choosing one: the saddle, the handles,the breaks, the chain.. if by any chance you picked up the wrong one you will need to wait half an hour or so before choosing another one if you are using your credit card
  4. enemies are: buses ( we share the bus lane with these bulky vehicles), motorbikes ( they always find you too slow)
  5. Remember the good spots and create your own hit list : alongside the Seine, the Champs de Mars, the Grand Palais and its surrounding, the Marais when it is pedestrian on Sundays..

And if you want to know more check out the vélib’ blog (blog.velib.paris.fr/blog/) invaded by velibloggeurs

(My guess is,  with the vélib’,  a whole new page was added to the French dictionary)

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