Bicycle Network: Where to Ride
A visitors perspective on the Velib free bikes in Paris
As a visitor to Paris you can’t help but notice the Velib (VElo LIBre) system that has racks of bikes at every Metro and often in between. We were in Paris for the final week recently of Le Tour and were keen to make use of Velib.
The idea is that you pick up a bike at any Velib station, ride to your destination and re-dock the bike at the nearest station. If you do this within 30 mins then there is no charge if it takes longer than 30 mins then a charge starts (€ 1 for an additional half-hour, € 2 for another 30-minutes and € 4 for every addition half-hour after that)
The bikes are well equipped, 3 speed twist gears, hand brakes, front basket, stand, bell, light and a lock. Paris is virtually flat so riding is very easy. Roving mechanics maintain the bikes so they are mostly in good condition.
Locals set up accounts with Velib, then use a swipe card to release a bike from a rack.
Visitors can set up a 1 day or 1 week account, by inserting a credit card at a Velib station. After a few failed attempts to do this a Parisian came to our aid and explained that the Velib stations only accept French issued credit cards (CB) that have a special chip on them. However he suggested I try an Amex card as he had heard that they were accepted. Voila, we were away, (he also suggested that Diners worked as well but I can’t verify that.)
Your credit card is used for security and in our case to buy a one week pass for € 5 (a one day pass is €1). The machine issues you with an account number then you choose a PIN. Each time you take a bike you type in the account number, PIN and the number of the bike you have chosen, then you have 30 seconds to release that bike from its dock.
ü It’s a great way to get around
ü Velib stations are literally everywhere – in some areas every 200m and more are being built all the time.
ü There are some dedicated bike paths and all major roads have clearly marked bike lanes.
ü You see a lot more of
ü It’s faster and cheaper than using the Metro or Bus.
Tips & Traps
ü Leave plenty of time to drop off your bikes – often a bike rack will be full especially in popular areas (supply and demand can get out of balance)
ü There is a map at each station that tells you where the nearest stations are.
ü You need to check the bike before you release it from a station. Docked bikes may have flat tyres, missing pedals, broken brake cables etc.
ü If you undock a faulty bike then cant’ ride it you have to wait 5 or 10 mins to get another bike (I think this is to stop people stringing together more than one 30 min free)
ü You need a pretty good idea of where you are heading –
It’s a fantastic program – the number of Velib stations and bikes is staggering – but that’s what makes it work – a bike is always there nearby and easy to drop off.