Essentials > Getting Around > Bicycling in Paris
I love the fact that in Paris everyone cycles: old men smoking Gauloises, chic women in pearls and heels, and people who manage to find enough roomfor their market basket on the back and a poodle balanced on the handlebars. It's considered a wayof getting around rather than a sports activity . And when you’ve got a bike, there are no worries about Métro strikes, parking, or wearing out the soles of your shoes.
Dedicated bike lanes, widened bus corridors, and Vélib' municipal bikes make cycling in Paris a lot easier in the new Millennium. If you're afraid of the cars, head to the quays of the Seine and the Canal St- Martin on Sundays and public holidays, when the roads in the area are closed off to traffic. For scenic trails in the great outdoors try the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes, the latter which can be reached via one of the nicest bike trails in town know as the Promenade Plantée, at the end of the Viaduc des Arts.
- Getting Around
Paris is relatively flat in the center, but Montmartre, Belleville and the Butte aux Cailles can be a tad steep. Why not try an electric bike? See bike rentals below. Get a copy of the free cycling map “Carte Vélo à Paris” (at any tourism office and most bike rental agencies), which helps you navigate the one-way maze of bike lanes and find the most scenic routes. Sunday morning is usually the best time to cycle around the capital, when the few cars on the road aren’t likely to be in a hurry
Cyclists are allowed in the bus lanes, but it’s advisable to speed up or get out of the way if one starts bearing down on you (let the bus pass you on the right so you don’t get trapped in the gutters). To compete with the Indy-racing cars and pedestrians chattering away obliviously their cell phones, quick reflexes and a bit of attitude go a long way. Always point to where you’re going, look out for parked cars pulling out or opening doors, and use the bike's bell as much as possible. In most cases, you should stay off the sidewalks, give way to pedestrians in traffic-free zones, and obey the same traffic rules as cars.
Note: It might not look cool, but wear a helmet and make sure your bike has a headlight if you're riding after dark.
- Helpful Websites
An American cyclist known as “Q. May” has created a very useful website for urban cyclists in Paris, with safety info, vocabulary and pronunciation tips, and cycling routes to get out of Paris and into the suburbs (not as easy as you’d think), with plenty of photos.
Mayor Dalanoë is responsible for the increase in cycling lanes in Paris. Visit his City Hall website for the latest info (more detailed on the French page) on new bike parking, lanes, and traffic-free zones.
- Bike Rentals & Tours
If you have a credit card with a microchip, or puce, in it (as far as I know, only European credit/debit cards have these) you can use the municipal bike system called Vélib'. With tens of thousands of bike in stations throughout the city, you're able to pick a bike up in any station and drop it off anywhere else. For €29/year, €5/week or €1/day you get unlimited use of the bikes in 30-minute increments (you have to return the bike and pick up another if you want to continue riding). Read some of my Vélib' comments here and here.
Unfortunately, most American cards won't work in the machines where you get your pass, so they will have to rent their bikes the old fashioned way.
Bike rentals usually require a photo ID and security deposit. Be sure you also rent a lock in case you want to stop somewhere. Bikes "wander off" very quickly in big cities!
Fat Tire Tours
24 Rue Edgar Faure, 15th
Tel 01 56 58 10 54
Run by a young family of native Texans, this friendly bike tour company (night and day tours by bike) also rents out bikes for all ages, well-equipped with child seats, helmets, trailers and rain gear. Open daily.
50 rue Saint Georges, 9th
Tel 01 42 81 54 68
If public transportation is getting to you but you’re too smart to get a car and are too lazy to get a bike, then why not try an electric bike? I know of at least a handful of Montmartrois folks who’d love to get up those hills without breaking into an unflattering sweat! This shop sells, repairs and rents out six different brands of electric bikes. It’s just €25 for a full day’s rental, so why not give it a test run?
Gepetto & Vélos
59 rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 5th
M° Cardinal Lemoine
Tel 01 43 37 16 17
Rentals, sells and repairs of all types of bicycles.
Maison Roue Libre
95-bis Rue Rambuteau, 1st
M° Les Halles
Tel.: 01 53 46 43 77.
Open all week, all year; from 9:00 to 19:00.
This bike rental company is run by the RATP (Paris Transit Authority), so the bikes have the same turquoise/white coloring as the busses and Métro. Open daily 9am-7pm (closed three weeks December/January), with competitive rates. Guided tours are regularly scheduled (in French). On Sundays and holidays, April through October (10am-6pm) you can rent bikes from one of their Cyclobus locations: Bois de Boulogne, 16th (Place de la Porte d'Auteuil), Hôtel de Ville, 4th (2, Avenue Victoria), Bois de Vincennes, 12th (Esplanade St Louis), and Denfert-Rochereau, 14th (corner of Rue Daguerre and Ave General Leclerc).
38 Quai Marne 19th
Tel 01 42 41 76 98
This non-profit neighborhood association recovers and repairs bicycles, then rents them out at a very reasonable rate . City cruisers, mountain bikes and tandems available for all ages, and includes lock and bungees. Right by the Parc de la Villette on the Canal St-Martin.
20 Rue d'Hauteville, 10th
M° Bonne Nouvelle
Tel 01 40 35 36 36
Open daily 9am-7pm. Bike rentals, sales, and repairs. Also accessories like locks, baskets, child seats, rain gear.
Paris Rando Vélo
Join the free Friday night bike tours of the city (separate from the famous Friday Night Fever Skate). Meet at 9:30pm (the ride starts at 10pm sharp) at the Hôtel de Ville (4th) and goes in a circular scenic route around Paris , returning to the start at about 1am. They also meet the 3rd Sunday of the month in the same place at 10:30am. The ride is cancelled in case of rain. For info call 06 10 87 05 87.
- Bikes on Public Transportation
Bikes can be taken on Transilien trains and RER lines A and B, but only in carriages marked with a bicycle symbol and not during rush hours (weekdays 6:30am-9:00am and 4:30pm-7:00pm). Metro line 1 is open to cyclists on Sundays only until 4:30pm (although you can’t get your bike past the turnstiles at La Défense or Louvre-Rivoli). Busses are completely off limits to bicycles.
- Cycling Vocabulary
Vélo tout-terrain (VTT) mountain bike
Vélo tout-chemin (VTC) hybrid bike
Vélo de ville city cruiser bicycle
anti-vol anti-theft lock
Location/louer rental/to rent
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