A keen cyclist? Not a fan of public transport? Wondering just exactly how you use the Vélibs in Paris? The Paris transport system isn’t for everyone. If you’re brave enough to face Parisian traffic head on, you might just find that it’s the quickest method of moving around the city.
The Velib bicycle rental system was launched in 2007 and was modernised in 2017 to include electronic bikes. It is now technically called the Vélib’ Métropole, but for Parisians, it’s still the plain ol’ Vélib. Popular with locals and tourists alike, it’s a great way to see the city and cut calories after a day of pastries.
In 2018 the former Vélib stations were dug up and replaced to make space for the newer versions. After a year of technical issues, many Parisians, frustrated with no Vélibs to use, turned to the new electric scooters on offer in the city. However, now in 2019 the Vélibs are mostly back in business.
There are currently 1,100 Vélib stations in Paris, housing over 20,000 bicycles for rent. There are bikes available roughly every 300m and they can be simply located on the Vélib website or app.
Simply swipe your credit card at one the of the Vélib stations and select your option. Your card will be charged a deposit of 150€, but this is returned – providing you don’t write off the bike, of course. After following the instructions on the machine, you can choose your bike on screen. Then it’s just a matter of seconds before the red light next to your selected bike turns green, and you’re good to go.
While locals prefer the monthly annual subscriptions, there are two options for tourists in Paris:
The V-Séjour is a 7 day pass that costs 5€ per bike and permits you to take up to 5 Vélib’s at one time. If you’re using one of the standard Vélibs, you pay nothing more for the next half an hour, then 1€ for use between 30-60 minutes. For the electric Vélibs you pay 1€ for the first half an hour and 2€ for the subsequent half an hour.
The V-Découverte follows the same price schedule as the V-Séjour, but is only valid for 24 hours. In reality most trips won’t take half an hour. If they do, you can simply drop off your Vélib at a station and take another to save yourself some cash.
Once you’re done for the day, or taking a break, return your Velib at the closest station. Wait for the green light to turn red, so its locked and print a receipt from the machine. This is not obligatory, but is proof that you retuned the bike, in case you later need it.
Parisian traffic is famously hectic and drivers are impatient. Scooters weave in and out of traffic paying little heed to rule and regulation. The majority of roads and sidewalks have designated bike lanes, but this doesn’t mean everyone is aware or cares for them. The sidewalk lanes are often littered with human traffic and will make good use of your bell.
The bike lanes on the roads are easier to negotiates, but many are on one way streets and directly oppositional to oncoming traffic. Riding a bicycle in Paris is not for the feint of heart, but it’s an adventure and it certainly beats the smell of the Metro!