by Nancy Pitman
If you want to explore Paris without the crowded buses and trains, walking isn’t your only option. The city of romance now offers a pick up, drop off bike venture. Just look for the large bicycle racks bursting with new street bikes. Once you find one, take a bike out and your first half hour of riding is free. When you’re finished, drop it off at any of the 1,450 locations found throughout the city. It’s as easy as that.
These bikes turned out to be a saving grace for us one night when the metro shut down earlier than we expected. We were stranded a few miles away from our hotel. We had been walking all day and our feet were rebelling from all the abuse. Taxis were hard to find that late at night and we were dreading the walk back. Just outside the metro station where we were abandoned, we noticed the bike rack. Curious, we walked up to the large machine located in the middle. Reading the information, we were happily surprised to find that these bikes were free to use.
Not only did we get back to the hotel in record time, we actually had a good time pedaling the near-empty streets of Paris at midnight. It was peaceful and beautiful with the lights shining on the currents of the Seine River. We also found that there is life after midnight, as a fun-loving group of about 100 roller skaters came racing up from behind us. Young and old alike were enjoying the refreshingly quiet streets of the city.
As overcrowding was becoming a serious problem, the city took matters into their own hands and created the Velib bike system to help Parisians get around easier without having to tackle the Metro and bus system. They found this system a great way to help ease the congestion problem, not only on public transportation but also with cars on the street.
Attractive as well as useful, these bikes come complete with locks, lights, an adjustable seat, and even a front basket for your groceries. The plan is to have a stand approximately every 900 feet throughout Paris with a grand total of 20,600 bikes.
You will need a credit card to take a bike and will be charged 200 Euro if the bike is not returned within 24 hours. Just insert your card into the large vending machine and pick your language. You will be prompted how to use the machine, and when finished, you have 60 seconds to release your bike.
When you start riding, the first half hour is free, which is generally enough time to get to your destination. Then, you will be charged one Euro for an additional half hour. After that, it could go up as high as four Euro per half hour. The higher rate is to ensure there will always be an ample supply of bikes to keep in rotation. A better idea for those who want to use the bike for longer periods of time is to get a day pass for one Euro. You can also get a seven day pass for five Euro. Locals can get a yearly pass for 29 Euro. Both passes can be purchased on Velib’s website.
Why spend countless hours underground in a crowded metro when you can leisurely enjoy the sights, sounds and fragrances on the streets of Paris? Save your toes some agony and take a spin on the Velib. For more information and a map of Velib locations, visit www.velib.paris.fr.
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