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Paris by Bike


I love the fact that in Paris everyone cycles: old men smoking Gauloises, chic women in pearls and heels, and people who manage to find enough room for their market basket on the back and a poodle balanced on the handlebars. It’s considered a way of getting around rather than a sports activity . And when you’ve got a bike, there are no worries about Métro strikes, parking, or wearing out the soles of your shoes.

Dedicated bike lanes, widened bus corridors, and Vélib’ municipal bikes make cycling in Paris a lot easier in the past few years. The City of Paris has a grand expansion plan for dedicated bike lanes which should be completed in 2020 (read in here, in French), with the Rue de Rivoli completed in 2018. If you’re afraid of the cars, head to the quays of the Seine, which are always car-free now, or the Canal St- Martin on Sundays and public holidays, when the roads in the area are closed off to traffic. For scenic trails in the great outdoors try the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes, the latter which can be reached via one of the nicest bike trails in town know as the Promenade Plantée, at the end of the Viaduc des Arts.

Getting Around

Paris is relatively flat in the center, but Montmartre, Belleville and the Butte aux Cailles can be a tad steep. Why not try an electric bike? Sunday morning is usually the best time to cycle around the capital, when the few cars on the road aren’t likely to be in a hurry. Here are some suggested scenic routes for visitors: https://en.parisinfo.com/what-to-see-in-paris/info/guides/paris-cycling-exploring

Cyclists are allowed in the bus lanes, but it’s advisable to speed up or get out of the way if one starts bearing down on you (let the bus pass you on the right so you don’t get trapped in the gutters). To compete with the Indy-racing cars and pedestrians chattering away obliviously their cell phones, quick reflexes and a bit of attitude go a long way. Always point to where you’re going, look out for parked cars pulling out or opening doors, and use the bike’s bell as much as possible. In most cases, you should stay off the sidewalks, give way to pedestrians in traffic-free zones, and obey the same traffic rules as cars.

Note: It might not look cool, but wear a helmet and make sure your bike has a headlight if you’re riding after dark.

Bike Rentals & Tours

If you have a credit card with a microchip, or puce, in it (as far as I know, only European credit/debit cards have these) you can use the municipal bike system called Vélib’. With tens of thousands of bike in stations throughout the city, you’re able to pick a bike up in any station and drop it off anywhere else. For €29/year, €8/week or €1.70/day you get unlimited use of the bikes in 30-minute increments (you have to return the bike and pick up another if you want to continue riding). It’s not obviousl how it works, so here is an article I wrote with tips for getting your Vélib.

Unfortunately, most American cards won’t work in the machines where you get your pass, so they will have to rent their bikes the old fashioned way.

Bike rentals usually require a photo ID and security deposit. Be sure you also rent a lock in case you want to stop somewhere. Bikes “wander off” very quickly in big cities!

Fat Tire Tours
24 Rue Edgar Faure, 15th
M° Dupleix
Tel 01 56 58 10 54

Run by a young family of native Texans, this friendly bike tour company (night and day tours by bike) also rents out bikes for all ages, well-equipped with child seats, helmets, trailers and rain gear. Open daily.

Vélo Electro
50 rue Saint Georges, 9th
M° Trinité
Tel 01 42 81 54 68

If public transportation is getting to you but you’re too smart to get a car and are too lazy to get a bike, then why not try an electric bike? I know of at least a handful of Montmartrois folks who’d love to get up those hills without breaking into an unflattering sweat! This shop sells, repairs and rents out six different brands of electric bikes. 

Gepetto & Vélos

59 rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 5th
M° Cardinal Lemoine
Tel 01 43 37 16 17

Rentals, sells and repairs of all types of bicycles.

Cyclo Pouce
38 Quai Marne 19th
M° Ourcq
Tel 01 42 41 76 98

This non-profit neighborhood association recovers and repairs bicycles, then rents them out at a very reasonable rate . City cruisers, mountain bikes and tandems available for all ages, and includes lock and bungees. Right by the Parc de la Villette on the Canal St-Martin.

Paris Rando Vélo
Join the free Friday night bike tours of the city (separate from the famous Friday Night Fever Skate). Meet at 9:30pm (the ride starts at 10pm sharp) at the Hôtel de Ville (4th) and goes in a circular scenic route around Paris, returning to the start at about 1am. They also meet the 3rd Sunday of the month in the same place at 10:30am. Note that helmets are required for kids under 12. The ride is cancelled in case of rain. For info call check their website: http://www.parisrandovelo.fr/

Bikes on Public Transportation

Bikes can be taken on Transilien trains and RER lines A and B, but only in carriages marked with a bicycle symbol and not during rush hours (weekdays 6:30am-9:00am and 4:30pm-7:00pm). Metro line 1 is open to cyclists on Sundays only until 4:30pm (although you can’t get your bike past the turnstiles at La Défense or Louvre-Rivoli). Busses are completely off limits to bicycles.

Cycling Vocabulary

Vélo bicycle

Vélo tout-terrain (VTT) mountain bike

Vélo tout-chemin (VTC) hybrid bike

Vélo de ville city cruiser bicycle

Casquet helmet

anti-vol anti-theft lock

panier basket

Location/louer rental/to rent

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