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Paris by Velib

Story by Matt


I was lucky enough to spend a week in Paris with my wife recently, staying in a neat little (emphasis on little!) apartment in the Latin quarter that we found on (cool way to find cheap accommodation). As the apartment was right next to a Metro stop, we had planned on taking the Metro everywhere we needed to go.

During the flight to Paris I was seated next to a guy who had lived his whole life in Paris, and amazingly he offered to show us round the city on our first day there. He rocked up on the first day on his bicycle and promptly took us around the corner to the nearest "Velib" station. He walked us through signing up on the bike share machine that is located at every bike station (looks a bit like a parking meter machine, takes credit card) and we foolishly chose the single day option, thinking that one day cycling would be enough for us non cycling people!

Well, after one day that included a visit to the Tower, Notre Dame and a wild ride down the Champs Elysees and round the mad roundabout at the bottom, we were hooked. That night we signed up on the website for a 7 day pass.

Hint 1: It is much easier to sign up on the website

Hint 2: if you are staying for more than a few days, just grab the 7 day pass so you are sorted (8 euro's).

You get sent an account number and choose a 4 digit pin that allows you to unlock one of the 20,000 (!) bikes at any of the 1,800 stations around the city.

There are smartphone apps you can download that use GPS & data to show you the nearest bike station & how many bikes/spaces are available at the station.

The system is designed so that people don't "hog" the bikes for long periods - if you return a bike to a station (any station with a space) in under 30 minutes, you don't pay any extra for usage. After 30 minutes you start getting charged, 1 euro for the first hour & it increases per hour after that.

We found 30 minutes to be plenty of time to get to most places (it's much faster to bike than bus/car!). If you are a real tightwad, just set an alarm for 25 minutes on your phone, then find the nearest station and park up for a rest!

Hint 3: the bike must stay in the station for 5 minutes to reset your free half hour.

During our week we never had a problem finding a bike, but we did strike a couple of times where the station at popular tourist spots was full.

You can get an extra 15 minutes free if this happens, but we never bothered and just biked to the next nearest station (never far away).

Hint 4: before picking a bike to release, check for flat tires & seat adjustment. We got a couple of wonky ones, but that was a laugh too.

We took the bikes everywhere (biking to & from a restaurant at night was great fun - the bikes have LED lights) and in fact never used the Metro once! We did take the RER train to Versailles though, as that would be a tough ride to complete in less than 30 minutes ;-)

All in all, highly recommended. A great cheap, fun way to see Paris....    in the summertime anyway!