14 May 2008

Joie de Vivre Avec Vélo Libre

Copenhagen Cycle Chic Goes To Paris
Riding Vélib bikes - shouldn't we just call it Vélib'ing? - around Paris is a breeze. I'm sure that to some the above photo, however, looks a trifle perilous.

Not to worry, though. Busses in Paris have frequent stops so you can usually stay
ahead of them. If you find yourself next to one at a light, they provide ample room for cyclists and, most importantly, they know the cyclists are there. Wifealiciousness and I were overtaken by busses a few times, but they drove slowly and gave us a wide berth.

Taxis in Paris use the bus/bike lanes, too, but even on speedier stretches along the Seine or Rue du Rivoli, taxis slow when overtaking bikes. Brilliant.
Copenhagen Cycle Chic Goes To Paris
There is a sincere sense of 'joie de vivre' present in Paris these days, thanks to the bicycles. The system itself is so easy to use and the massive number of bike racks means that you're always within spitting distance of a Vélib. As the map below shows, Vélibs are widely available :-)
Vélib Paris Rental Locations
One thing that we noticed was that with the Vélib you get to see parts of Paris you would normally zip past on a Metro deep underground.
Copenhagen Cycle Chic Goes To Paris
One evening we rode up to Sacre Coeur. It's a long climb up the mountain, especially the last stretch, with all the cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix combined with a Haute Categorie climb in the Pyranees. The Vélib bikes have three gears, like most normal bikes in European cities, and while getting up the mountain required a bit of muscle, it was no problem. The real hell was all the tourists up at Sacre Coeur, but we were the only ones on Vélibs, which was quite cool.
Paris Bike Culture - Copenhagen Cycle Chic Goes to Paris
We didn't fancy running the gauntlet of tourists to get back down so we merely followed the road that cars take, down the backside of the mountain. We realised that neither of us had ever been on the other side. Who has? Millions of tourists climb up the front and back down again, like so many camera-toting Dukes of York. We discovered a hidden corner of Paris that we would never have visited without the Vélib.
Vélo Hommes - Cycling Chaps in Paris
The whole time we rode down streets we've never seen before, discovered cool shops previously unknown to us and generally experienced a whole new Paris.

Joie de vivre, indeed.


Michael said...

I love it - Yes, the back side is another world, especially at night, when after just a few minutes you would never know that all those crowds are gathered - so quiet and peaceful. It's refreshing to find those places in Paris, a city that can feel too crowded in the early summer (and empty and unbearable in the later summer)...

But now you've revealed the secret...

What an amazing map of the stations, I can't believe there are really so many, I guess this is what you do with your tax money when you aren't spending it all on bombs...

Kristin Tieche said...

Chouette! Ces photos me rendent jalouse! La carte de stations est impressionante! J'ai hâte d'essayer Vélib!

Anonymous said...

I love the first photo. First look I thought "She's too near the bus!" but good thing, like you've said, busses in Paris give ample space for cyclist. :)

Anonymous said...

I've been velibing around Paris since it started last August and it's been a real treat. But I have to disagree about the buses and taxis. Buses honk at you when you're in front of them and when they're fed up they speed past you and you're stuck between the bus and the sidewalk with not enough room. That's how one lady on a velib got killed recently by a bus driver. Ample space ha! And cab's are not any better.

Colville-Andersen said...

thanks for the comments.
mel: thanks for your opinion. i base mine on my own experience, but also comments from many friends who live in paris and who velib each day. there certainly are grumpy bus drivers and taxi drivers, but by and large, paris is not what it used to be.