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Using the Vélib Bike Service in Paris


Now that the weather is (mostly) conducive to getting around Paris by bicycle, I thought it would be a good time to update the information about using the City of Paris’s municipal bike-share system known as Vélib. It’s had a rocky few years after switching service providers, and while there are still a few bugs to work out, I’ve found them to be pretty reliable for the casual cyclist. Whether you’ve used them before or are a first-timer, here are a few useful tips on the bikes, how to set up an account, and how to use them.

Most Important Takeaways

  • Vélib has regular bikes (green) and electric-assisted bikes (blue)
  • If you have a mobile phone with a French number, you can sign up for passes (including 24-hour or 3-day passes) online; however if you have no way of receiving a text message on a French phone to confirm your payment, then you’ll need to sign up directly at the bike station terminals (be sure to take a photo or quickly write down the passcode on the screen; there have been issues with people not receiving the printout receipt with the passcode to be able to check out the bikes).
  • There’s a FREE pass for residents that only charges you if you actually use a bike (this “pay as you go” option is slightly more expensive, but great for the occasional user who wants the option to grab a bike at any moment without fuss).

About the Vélib Bikes

There are two kinds of Vélib:

  1. regular bikes (green)
  2. electric-assisted bikes (blue). These still need to be pedaled to work, but they give you a little push, especially going uphill, and can reach 25kph.

Both have baskets, mud guards, headlights, and locks for when you need to pop into a shop quickly. Unlike the many “dockless” bikes that you might see around Paris (although they’ve been almost completely replaced by electric scooters now), the Vélibs are all docked bikes, with several hundred “stations” situated throughout Paris and the immediate.

Subscription Options and Passes (Updated January 2023)

There are 2 “one-off” passes that anyone with a credit card can use, and 3 “subscription” options that are for residents or long-term visitors.

  1. The one-off passes for casual users are the €3 Ticket-V (a single-use rental for up to 45 minutes, either classic or electric, plus €1 for each additional 30 minutes on classic bikes or €2 for eBikes), the €5 Pass 24-hour “Classique”, the €10 Pass 24-hour “Electrique” and the €20 “Pass 3 Jours“. All but the Ticket-V allow you to take up to 5 bikes at a time with one account, so it’s perfect for small groups or a family who want to pay with one credit card. There are two fees to take into account, the fixed “Pass” fee just to sign up (charged right away whether you ever use the bikes or not) and the actual rental fee for the time you use the bikes.  You get an account number and a PIN you need to keep for the duration of your pass to be able to take a bike.  The rental fee for the actual time used is the same for both passes: 
    • For the Pass 24-hour “Classique”, green bikes are free for up to 30 minutes. If you don’t return your bike to a station after 30 minutes, your credit card will be charged €1 for each additional half hour. You can use the bike as many times as you want without paying more than the pass fee as long as you switch bikes every 30 minutes. If you want to use a blue electric bike with this pass, it will cost €2 for each 30 minutes.
    • For the Pass 24-hour “Electrique” and Pass 3 Jours, blue electric bikes are free for up to 45 minutes for the first 6 trips (then €1 /trip after that) and €1 for each 30-minutes you go over. If you want to use the green bikes with this pass it’s free for up to 60 minutes per trip then €1 per 30 minutes (this might come in handy since there are far fewer electric bikes available, they’re harder to find, and sometimes the ones you find aren’t finished recharging).     

      : This month an American visiting Paris confirmed that a €300 deposit was deducted from her credit card each time she renewed her 3-day pass, and only reimbursed a day or two after it expired; so if you are staying a week or more and need multiple passes to use for the whole time, you may need a card with room for having multiple deposits taken at once before getting the money returned.
  2. There are three different subscriptions that are for those who live in Paris, adapted to the frequency of use. All three work with a physical card that will be sent to you (or added to your Navigo card):
    • “V-Libre” is a pay-as-you-go account for occasional users. It costs nothing to subscribe, but charges you €1 per 30 minutes for the green bikes and €3 per 45 minutes for the blue bikes. If you never use the bikes, you aren’t charged anything at all. I recommend everyone to get this even if they think they’ll never use the bikes, because in a pinch you’ve got the card to grab one and go.
    • “V-Plus” is a monthly (€3.10) or annual (€37.20) subscription for those who use the bikes more than four times per month. With this subscription you get 30 minutes for free on the green bikes, then €1 per additional 30-minute rental, and €2 for the blue bike rentals plus €2 for each additional 30-minute rental.
    • “V-Max” is a fixed monthly (€8.30) or annual (€99.60) account for regular users that includes 60-minute rides on green bikes and 2 free 45-minute rides on the blue bikes (then €1 per trip). After that, the additional times is €1 per 30 minutes for either bike. This is an awesome deal if you want to use the electric bikes every day of the year for short journeys (less than 45 minutes each trip).      
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Getting Started

Before you start, you’ll need to get an account (even for a Day Pass) and – especially if you’re planning on using it more than once – the smartphone app. For both (available in English), visit: https://www.velib-metropole.fr/

If you’re from outside France, you’ll need to register right at the screen found in each station (see photo below).

Once you have registered online or at the bike station terminal pictured below for the pass you have chosen, you will immediately receive an eight-digit subscription ID# and a PIN (the PIN is chosen by you). WRITE THESE DOWN (or store in your phone), as you’ll need them to check out a bike (for the monthly or annual pass holders, you’ll need these until your card arrives in the mail).

Regular (green) and electric (blue) bikes at a docking station with the terminal “borne” on the right.

Check Out a Bike

Once you have your ID# and PIN, you can check out a bike(s). You can find available bikes using the website or the smartphone (updated in real-time), although they are pretty easy to spot around Paris (TIP: the bus shelter maps show the nearest Vélib stations).

Do a quick check to make sure the bike you want isn’t broken:

  • Both wheels have air
  • All parts including pedals, seat, and handlebars are intact
  • Spin the pedals backwards to make sure chain isn’t blocked
  • Make sure the seat can be adjusted if needed
  • If the seat is facing backwards, it means the last person who used it found an issue (so don’t check this bike out!)

Once all looks good, you can checkout the bike directly on the bike’s electric display unit known as the “V-box” (DO NOT try to use the “borne” terminal to check out a bike!). It will then ask for your eight-digit ID#, and then the four-digit PIN (push the green check button after entering the numbers). For those who have a physical card, you just wave this in front of the V-Box and it reads the info automatically, so you don’t need to enter any numbers. If all is good, it will display “Go!” and you can remove your bike from the docking station and start riding.

Adjust the seat and make sure the brakes work before you go flying down a hill into traffic. Et voila!

Note: If there is an issue with the bike (ie an electric bike not charged completely, or a regular bike that hasn’t been returned correctly) it won’t allow you to check it out, just try another bike. Sometimes whole stations are blocked (for example, if it’s on a parade or protest march route that day).  

This is the “V-Box” on each bike. You checkout your bike right here, using the green checkmark button.

Locking the Bike for a Temporary Pause

If you want to pop into the bakery or otherwise leave your bike momentarily without returning it to a station, you can lock your Vélib in two ways (see this video to get a better visual: https://youtu.be/gLBd4Pe9-RY):

  • Once stopped, put down the kickstand and push the tip of the left handlebar to eject the cable lock cleverly hidden in the tip of the right handlebar. You lock this into the little slot at the “neck” of the bike where the handlebars meet the frame. Then push the green checkmark and you’ll see “Pause” displayed; you will need to confirm this with your card or enter your PIN. You’ll then see a padlock symbol to confirm.
  • You can simply block the handlebars from moving (a bit like when you lock your car’s steering wheel) without using the cable lock. Just press the green checkmark and you’ll see “Pause” displayed; you will need to confirm this with your card or enter your PIN. Turn the handlebars until you feel it block into locked position. You’ll then see a padlock symbol to confirm.

To release your bike again, push the green check button and use your card or enter your PIN again to confirm, and it will release the cable and the locked steering, so you’re ready to continue rolling.

Returning the Bike

When you’re ready to return your bike, just find the nearest station (you can find stations with open spaces listed on the app and website) and slide the front wheel back into the docking station slot. Keep your eye on the V-Box display: it will show the time you used the bike then a “Stop” sign, and then the display will turn off. Give the bike a little tug to confirm it’s locked in there, then you’re good! You’ll receive a confirmation email each time you return your bike.

If you want to use it longer than the free time you have on your pass (usually 30 minutes) without paying, simply stop at a station and plug it back in, confirm it says “Stop” on the screen, and then just check it out again (unless the bike sucks, in which case you’ll want to grab a different bike).

Note: Don’t forget to turn the seat around if your bike isn’t working properly to signal to other riders and the Vélib staff that it’s broken.

IF YOU HAVE ANY ISSUES: call customer service (open 8am-10pm on weekdays, 9am-10pm Saturdays, and 9am-7pm Sundays and holidays): 01 76 49 12 34

Ride safely!

I know none of you are wearing helmets or yellow safety vests, but at least don’t forget one rule: never ride between a large vehicle (like a truck or bus) and the sidewalk just before an intersection, because they may not see you when turning right and you’ll get squashed. Stay behind or pass on the left so the drivers can see you. I know it’s no fun sucking on exhaust fumes, but you’ll have to bear it until you can get to a less congested area to ride or stick to the separated bike paths all over Paris.

* Learn all about cycling in Paris: Paris by Bike

Even if you have priority, be sure to look out for pedestrians (use that bell!) and electric “trottinettes” (we call them scooters in English, but they aren’t the same as motor scooters), which are everywhere in Paris now and often driven by people who have no idea what they’re doing (or the rules of the road).

velib phone charger

PS: The terminals, or “bornes” at each docking station have another great purpose: charging your USB devices! 


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  • Do the bikes come in different sizes? I’m only 5 feet tall and I’m worried they’ll be too big.

  • Thanks for the information. The Velib website is not very helpful as it does not mention many of the important details you outlined here (for example, the plans that are only available to residents and if the free 30 min ride time refreshes every time you return a bike). Thanks for clarifying.

  • Is it possible to take the Velib on an RER, go outside Paris for the day (and then return it inside Paris)?

    • No, because it’s a short-term rental, meaning you have a pass to use it for 45 or 60-minute increments before it needs to be returned to a station. You can then get a different bike or use the same bike for up to a maximum of three trips. As there aren’t as many stations once you get past the Petite Couronne (the immediate suburbs of Paris), it would be almost impossible to find stations where you could change the bike. If you’re looking to use the same bike for a day trip outside Paris, you’re better off renting a bike for the day from a bike rental shop.

  • At the date of this comment the website and phone app will NOT allow non-French telephone numbers for the verification code and so passes with non-French numbers cannot be purchased online. I was advised to buy the pass at one of the docking stations that sells passes. These can be identified on the Velb map with a € on the docking station.

    • Thanks David, can you let us know which pass you were trying to purchase online, and if you were successful at the docking station? I don’t have a US number, so it’s hard to test it myself. 😉

    • Heather, I’m on a UK number and neither the app nor online work. I’m trying to buy a day pass for an electric bike or a classic but the app returns an error and online doesn’t send the validation code to my phone. Without the code you can’t proceed. I called the helpline and they said that they are aware of problems with non-French numbers. I’ll report back if I’m able to buy a day pass at one of those machines with a € on the map.

    • I was able to rent a bike for the day on the machine near Gare du Nord with no issue. I was given a number which should have printed so lucky I took a photo of the screen with the number. I then used it several times around town to hire bikes. I took an electric bike and they deducted a €300 euro deposit and I’ll see when I get that back.

  • The You Tube video on locking is also in English?
    I have only had a debit of 3 Euros yet I requested the middle senior option.
    Does payment take place when you first use the bike?
    It isn’t clear when and how this 27 Euros plus fee is taken.
    My subscription is for 12 months. Presumably it cancels after 12 months and isn’t a direct
    debit thereafter? Why doesn’t the info on 30 day period to check in at a bike stand in Paris
    to validate appear before payment? There is no information about when and how the Velib card is sent to UK?

    • The answer to your questions are in the General Terms and Conditions of Access and Use (GTCAU) that you “read and accepted” when signing up (scroll down to click on the link, it opens a pop-up to read the terms and conditions):


  • Don’t use velib, I signed up the night before I was going to use one and everything looked good, got a confirmation. The next day I went to use it and it said “oops software error” I tried to call but no one would answer, when I did get someone even though I pushed button for English the world only speak in French. I had the concierge call and they were rude to here and would not help. I gave up and used Lime instead and it worked fine.

  • After spending two hours online trying to update my 5 year old Velib subscription while in Paris from NYC, and calling my bank twice to figure out why my credits cards are not working, I called Velib and they told me they only accept European credit cards now. So anyone from outside of Europe may not use the system. This is asinine, but it is their loss has I have had an annual subscription for 5 years even though I used it only one month a year. Very poor management.

  • The system works great, although you should definitely sign up online, as opposed to the docking station 'bornes'. As for availability, most stations normally have bikes or there is another station a couple of blocks away. Most availability issues are related to traffic issues of rush hour traffic all going in one direction and are corrected throughout the day.

  • @David: There was certainly a lack of bikes available when the new Vélibs were put in last year, but they've really improved in the past six months. I have always found an available bike at one of the stations near me (there are three within a two-block radius). The app really helps to see where they are all grouped, which is handy!

  • The real problem with the Vélib is (for the most part, as far as I can tell) there are really quite few bikes available to take out for a ride. The few Vélibs in the stands have been, as you mention, vandalized and useless…

  • Looks like a lot has changed, transportation-wise, in Paris since we last visited late 2012, but even then we saw many locals on bikes and a wide lane many used (along with the buses it seemed). We mostly took buses back then, and walked of course, but it’ll be interesting to see how this has changed mobility 🙂