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By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—
(Updated June 28, 2011 to reflect new Velib’ policies)
Tourists coming to Paris look with desire at Vélib‘, the city’s public bike-share program. Until recently, when tourists asked me how to rent one, I was forced to dash hopes. For, until recently, you couldn’t hop on a bike unless you possessed a European chip-enhanced credit card.
That changed in the past few months, however. You can now register for a one or seven-day subscription on their Web site with any MasterCard, Visa or American Express card. They will then give you a code to tap into the kiosk screen at any of the city’s 1,200 Vélib’ bike stations.
Note that a one-day subscription costs €1.70 and a seven-day subscription costs €8. Both allow unlimited, free 30-minute rides. Also note that when you subscribe to the service, a €150 “hold” will be placed on your card and will be in place until your subscription expires. Read more on the Vélib’ Web site.
Not in the mood for Vélib’?
If this all sounds like a hassle, fear not: Parisians have been renting bikes since long before the Vélib’ cycled into town. So if you’re not in the mood to join the bike share, but still want to zip around the grands boulevards on two wheels, here are a few places to rent inexpensive bikes so you can play Parisian for a day.
22 Rue Léon Jouhaux 75010
€12 for a full day
After a picnic along the famed Canal Saint Martin, grab a bike from this playfully named corner shop. The service is far from whimsical, but the owners know what they’re doing and the prices are right. You might see me here since it’s where I also head (often) to get my flat tires fixed. I’m not good at avoiding glass on the streets…
Gepetto and Velos
59, rue du Cardinal Lemoine 75005
€15 for a full day
Over in the Latin Quarter, this packed shop offers all sorts of bikes for sale and for rent. Fortunately it’s located towards the upper half of the St. Genevieve Hill, so you can rent a bike for the day and coast downhill, keeping in mind that you’ll have to bike back uphill to return it. They also have guides available to ride with you if you are interested.
63 quai de la Tournelle 75005
€35 for a full day for a basic scooter
Located right by Notre Dame, and with a second location on Boulevard Voltaire, Free Scoot offers a solid selection of bikes, but more interestingly, affordable scooter rentals. If you don’t feel like pedaling, hop one of the many scooters that they offer to get the full European treatment.
If you’d rather take a bike tour and learn about the sights you’re seeing, Paris has several companies that will take you on group tours.
Bike About Paris
€30 for a 3.5-hour tour
Bike About Paris is among the most recommended bike tours in the city. The tour includes some off-the-beaten-track sights and stories along the way.
Fat Tire Bike Tours
€28 euros for a 4-hour city tour
One of the biggest bike touring companies, Fat Tire takes visitors in and around Paris. Check their Web site for day and night tours of Paris, a visit to Monet’s gardens in Giverny and a tour of the Normandy beaches by bike.
Rules and Etiquette
For all rentals, be prepared to leave a deposit or an identity card–this is standard procedure to make sure you don’t ride away forever with the bike.
While you’re on the road, helmets are optional but recommended. Adhere to the numerous and clearly marked bike paths located alongside the traffic lanes. Stopping at red lights and stop signs is normal for bicycles, and none of us are exempt from getting pulled over by the police, even on two wheels. Trust me, I know.