This may not be Amsterdam, but Paris is certainly pedaling at its heels. For the past few years the city has made huge efforts to establish cycle lanes, bike schemes and cycle days to get people wheeling about town. The Vélib’ cycle service makes seeing Paris by bicycle easy for tourists who can pick up and drop off bikes around the city whenever they choose. We’ve also got a few easy-to-follow bicycle routes for you or why not join Fat Tire Bike Tours who are offering 10% off for our readers! Don’t forget, the Tour de France is coming to town on the 25th July which descends on the Champs-Élysées.
This self-service bike scheme was introduced in 2007 and has been a huge success with Parisians and tourists alike. The bikes are rather heavy and a bit cumbersome, but they do the job and have little basket at the front for your bits and bobs.
- Pick up and drop off a bike at different cycle stations.
- Bike points are located all over Paris and are never more than 300m apart.
- Operates 24/7.
- Follow instructions on the screen.
- Pay by card using a VISA, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, Visa Electron or Mastercard Maestro.
€1 for 1-day or €5 for a 7-day subscription. Keep your ticket and subscriber code safe. You will need it when renting out another bike.
1st half hour, free/ 2nd half hour €1 / 3rd half hour €2 / 4th half hour and over €4
- It works out free or cheaper to keep returning a bike and taking another one.
- Nab a pink bike if you see one. These special ‘princess’ Velibs are free.
- Check the tires aren’t flat and the chain isn’t lose on your bike.
- You can check your balance at any bike station.
This scheme aims to free up the roads from traffic. Every Sunday and on public holidays a number of roads are closed to traffic except skaters, cyclists and pedestrians. This includes the Marais, Monmartre, the banks of the Seine, Bois de Boulogne and Vincennes. The most useful are the two main stretches running between east and west and another between north and south.
Bois de Boulogne covers 850 hectares and attracts dog-walkers and picnickers. The area is perfect for cycling with plenty of easy leafy paths to enjoy.
Cross over the Seine by the pedestrianised footbridge and, after a short climb, enter the beautiful formal gardens of Parc de Saint-Cloud. Admire one of the best panoramic views of Paris called “La Lanterne”, or the “Lantern of Demisthenes”. It was here in fact that the first bicycle race was believed to be held; a 1,200 metre on the 31st May 1868.
For the first part of the journey, walk from behind the opera house in Bastille along the viaduct. Later you can, legally hop back on your bike and travel through the Parisian suburbs towards Bois de Vincennes and the medieval castle. It’s about 5km there and a further 4km around the park.
From Porte de la Villette follow the towpath along the Canal de L’Ourcq which is closed to cars. Heading north, you will catch a glimpse of post industrial Paris and pass old factories and the Grands Moulins de Pantin before slipping into more rural landscape of French countryside towards Meaux, home of Brie cheese.
A slightly longer route follows the river Marne from the Bois de Vincennes. Again it’s car-free but while the canal is thin and straight, the river is wide and meandering. Soon you reach farmland and you might even catch a few rowers training. While the Velib scheme is good for short-mid journeys, look for better deals if you want to rent for a whole day.
If you decide to go further afield, it’s useful to know you can take a bike on the Ile de France regional trains and on the RER but not during rush hour.
At Fat Tire Bike Tours you can explore Paris with those who know it best. The guides deliver great photo opportunities and pad out the journey with fascinating stories and anecdotes. For something a bit different try the ‘Paris by Night’ tour, taking in all the best illuminations of the city. To venture further afield, a trip to Monet’s beautiful house and gardens in Giverny – where he painted his famous water lily series – is a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Alternatively take the train part of the way to Versailles then pedal to a local market to stock up on baguettes, cheese and ham for a picnic in the chateau grounds. Tours start at €28 for 4 hours.
Just for our lovely readers, Fat Tire Bike Tours is offering you all 10% off. Just use the code ‘summer2010’ when you book with them online.
Tour de France 2010
Don’t forget the world famous Tour de France will descend on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday 25th July 2010.