Paris is huge. There are twenty different arrondissements, each uniquely amazing. It takes hours to walk from one side of Paris to another. I’ve lived in Paris for the last few months and I still haven’t come close to seeing and doing all that this city has to offer. So what is the best way to see the city while you’re here? The metro is a sufficient form of transport but at 1.70€ per trip (or 1.30€ if you buy a 10 pack) it can be costly if you plan on making numerous trips during the day. When you take the metro you may get to your destination faster, but you lose the privilege of seeing the intricacies of the city along the way. At risk of sounding cliché “it’s not about the destination but the journey.” The best way to appreciate a city is not by just going to the same destinations as every tourist, but seeing the real city, found in the small back streets, little cafes and spots where the real locals are.
I believe there is no better way to see Paris than by bike. Changing my form of transport to bike riding changed my whole experience of living in Paris. Whilst doing the mundane activities of everyday such as traveling to work, I get the pleasure of being surrounded by views that give me goosebumps on a daily basis. Not only am I witnessing the beauty of the city, but I get to be fit at the same time. I LOVE BIKE RIDING PARIS.
Luckily in Paris we have the biggest bike sharing system in the world called ‘Velib’. Ironically, the term Velib is comprised of vélo, the French word for bike, and liberté, which is French for freedom. For me, bike riding is the definition of freedom. Strike on the metro? No problem! There are Velib’ stations everywhere and normally it’s very easy to find a free bike. Velib’ is a simple, efficient and cost effective system.
Tourists can sign up for the bike sharing system for one day for only 1.70€ and 8€ for one week. If you’re planning to stay in Paris for a while you can register for 28€ for the whole year, (that’s what I use as my main form of transport around Paris). The first 30 minutes of every ride is free. The next half an hour costs you approximately 1€. To avoid extra costs just find a Velib’ station with a free parking spot, slip it in and wait a few seconds to ensure the light goes green, wait a few minutes and grab another one!
Sign up here http://en.velib.paris.fr/
BUT HOW DO I FIND A BIKE AND NAVIGATE?
This is where the great apps come in. The two free apps that I use on a daily basis are Vélib’ and GeoVelo Paris. Vélib’ shows you all the bike stations and free bikes close to you. It also shows you the free parking spots for you to return your bike (click on the P in the menu button). The great thing is you can still find bike stations without internet. If you don’t have the app and you’re searching for parking you can look at the map at any Velib’ station and it will show you other stations around you.
GeoVelo Paris is an excellent free app that plans out your bike route for you. It shows you the quickest route whilst utilising the bike route paths. From my experience it’s far better than using the Google maps bike option. It also shows you all the Velib’ stations and how full they are (click on Afficher and turn on Velib’).
- If you enter your destination but don’t press depart, you can still follow the map out of wifi and like Google maps, your locater dot will still work. But make sure you wear something with easy access to your phone!
- Parisians have a little trick to alert other users of Velib’ of a dodgy bike. They flip the bike chair backwards. If you see this than go for another bike.
- Bus lanes are for bikers as well. If there is no bike lane provided just ride on the right hand side of the bus lanes.
- Make sure your bike seat is in properly because it’s not fun when it falls down whilst you’re riding on a main road!
- Montmartre has an amazing view overlooking Paris. But as it’s on a fairly steep hill so I don’t recommend trying to ride the Velib’ up there. But if you’re feeling game, go for it!
- The only time it sucks being on a bike is if it’s pouring down rain or snowing! But the great thing about Velib’ is that if this happens you can just find a parking station and jump on the closest metro.
- Beware of certain areas (Saint Michel and Saint Germain for example) it can sometimes be difficult to park your bike! But if you head to the tourist spots you shouldn’t have a problem.
- Get lost in Paris. If you’re not in a rush take a few wrong turns and go down the small little streets. The back streets are often filled with character and real Parisian charm. But watch out for cars and one way streets!