As a student in Paris, I have made much use of the public transit system, and overall I am deeply satisfied by my experience; it is navigable, fast and efficient, but after a while, I get a little exhausted using the system. For all of its efficiency, it is a very disorienting and cramped environment. Furthermore, I miss much of the city’s beauty when travelling underground. So when I want a bit more of a relaxing commute through the city, I go to my nearest Velib station and rent a bike.
As an avid cyclist, I truly enjoy travelling by bicycle from place to place which allows me to better explore my environment, and I can say that the Velib program is perhaps the most practical way of doing just that.
The program is quite simple: after renting a bike from one of the thousands of Velib stations scattered throughout the city, you can ride basically anywhere and return the bike to any station with free spaces. The program is both simple and cost-effective. In my case, I signed up online and paid the student fee of 30 euros for a year-long subscription, which allows me to rent a bicycle for up to 30 minutes at a time before getting charged one euro per extra hour. Personally, I see no reason why someone would need to ride a bike for more than 30 minutes in Paris. Considering that a month-long metro pass costs 73 euros, the Velib program is quite economical.
Most bicycles are in great shape; the gears shift quite well, the tires are full of air, and no parts seem broken. Usually if I find a broken bike at a Velib port, I simply rent a different bike from the port, and so far I have had no problems finding bikes to rent. Although the frames are heavy, the bikes turn easily, and the seats are quite comfortable. There are two Velib ports within 100 yards of my apartment building and I have yet to find both of them lacking bicycles to rent when I need them, so there is never too long a walk to find an available bicycle.
If I could criticize the program a bit, I have found that some ports in the middle of town are completely filled with bikes, which means that if I want to return my bike, I would have to find another port with open spots, but so far I have not had to go more than a few blocks out of my way to return a bicycle. But even then, each Velib port has a built-in map to show the nearest port with open spaces. I downloaded an app that shows each docking location and the number of bikes and open spots they have. When travelling to the middle of town and the more touristy areas, this is very helpful.
Although a potential cyclist would have no problem procuring a bicycle, they might be worried about the traffic conditions in Paris, which could prove to be quite dangerous. Speaking as a commuter student, I have to say that I have not yet encountered a dangerous situation on the streets of Paris. Indeed, the roads are crowded with traffic and cars and are potentially very dangerous, but cyclists don’t even need to ride on the roads; the sidewalks on most of the main boulevards are often so wide that they include bike lanes! Cyclists don’t have to worry at all about road traffic. Even the streets that do not have bike lanes on the sidewalks often have paved dividers between bike lanes and car lanes. Paris is a city that is designed just as much for cyclists as it is for pedestrians. In my humble opinion, the most practical, and most fun way of getting around the city of Paris is absolutely by bicycle.
The world awaits…discover it.