Renting a Vélib' is easier and cheaper than taking the Métro, but you'll need a credit card or Navigo. Some cards work at the machine (kiosks offer instructions in English and seven other languages), others need to buy 1 or 7-day passes online. Once you have your pass, enter the ticket number and four digit security code of your choice. Choose a bike- checking the tires, pedals, chain, saddle, and brakes first- then enter its number on the keypad. Press the release button next to your bike and go.
Prices are 1,70€ for a one-day pass, 8€ per week, and 29€ for a year. Vélib' preauthorizes a 150€ deposit, but journeys under 30-45 minutes are free, depending on your subscription- after that, each additional half hour is 1-4€. Be warned: these bikes are heavy. In Montmartre, I'm in first gear constantly, and the other day in Parc André Citroën, it dragged me down a slight incline. It's not uncommon to see fit, able-bodied young people sweating, huffing and puffing on Vélibs, while elderly, white-haired men and women bike by, outpacing cars and talking on the phone.
This concludes my unsolicited Vélib' informercial. Here's how to ride safely in Paris:
How to Bike in Paris
- Ride in the street. Policemen are constantly booting confused cyclists from the sidewalk, threatening them with fines. Watch out for people walking in the street and bike lanes. Pedestrians are your worst enemy biking in Paris. Make it a habit to shout "Attention!" [ah ta(n) syo(n)] loudly at people wandering aimlessly.
- Pay attention to pavement markings. Bike lanes come and go in Paris, so consult this map and plan ahead.
- Ride big. It's your right to ride in the street, even where no designated route exists. Take your time- drivers here are used to people in the street, so don't panic or swerve if a car is coming up behind you.
- Remember priorité à droite. Drivers on the right always have the right of way. If you're riding on the left side of the street, you're obliged to yield to any bus/taxi/car approaching the intersection.
- If riding in a skirt or heels, adjust the seat. The saddle should be high enough so your skirt doesn't get caught in the chain and your legs can extend completely straight. This trick for keeping your skirt in place is cute and very popular- in America. Parisian women tuck the front of their skirts under one leg so it's snugly secured on the saddle. When biking in heels, ride on the balls of your feet.
You can buy a recycled bike every Saturday from 10 am-1pm and 2-7 pm at 14 bis rue Cloÿs, 75018 Paris.