Paris: The Latest on Velib’, the Rental Bike Phenomenon


(See bottom of post for summer 2011 update)

We were pleased to see that Eric Rayman at the New York Times recently arrived in Paris and immediately hopped on a Vélib’ bike rental. In yesterday’s travel section, Rayman describes the joys of pedaling down the Boulevard St-Germain (and the terrors of biking through Place de la Concorde).

We’ve been big Vélib’ fans since it was launched this spring by popular socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë, and have even eyed it with envy (especially one Cheapo in this office, who bikes his way through lower Manhattan every morning, along streets that are decidedly unfriendly to cyclists). The program has put 15,000 bikes on the streets of Paris, available for short-term rental for almost nothing from more than 1,000 hop-on and drop-off stations. pointed out in a post this summer that many Americans were unable to rent bikes from the Vélib’ program, as the kiosks were only programmed to accept credit cards with “smart chips,” which are the norm in Europe. Rayman notes that the machines now accept American Express cards issued in the US, a sign, perhaps, of a “warming of Franco-American relations.”

Consider us warmed!

See also: Vélib official site.

(Update — June 2011)

Americans now have another option for participating in the Vélib’ bike share:

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.

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.

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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4 thoughts on “Paris: The Latest on Velib’, the Rental Bike Phenomenon”

  1. Pingback: A Bad Sign for a Government Commuting Option - Northern Virginia - Virginia (VA) - City-Data Forum

  2. The Vélib bike system doesn’t actually charge your card, it pre-authorises the 150 euros and only debits it if you fail to return the bicycle. Usually, what happens is that people fail to plug the bicycles properly back into the stands and wait for the light to go green, indicating that the bicycle has been recognised. Someone else then comes along, spots an improperly returned bicycle, “borrows” it and drives it off a bridge while his friend films it for YouTube.

    They’ve found loads of the bicycles at the bottom of the Seine.

    What’s also worth noting is that JC Decaux, who run the system, made an absolute fortune because they received huge quantities of free advertising real estate all over Paris in return for the 10 year obligation to run the system. It’s only “free” insofar as the end users are concerned, the city of Paris is paying through the nose for the operation.

    A little shameless plug : when you’re in Paris, you can find the nearest Vé’Lib stations and the number of bicycles/slots available at each by using your location-aware mobile phone (e.g. iPhone) and pointing it to the website

  3. BEWARE!!!!!!
    My girlfriend rented 2 Velib bikes last APRIL. She paid 300 euro deposit. This deposit was charged to her card and never returned! I have called numerous times, faxed and emailed but they don’t reply. You might never get your money back!

  4. Actually, we see that Vélib is in the running for one of the tourism awards made each November by the British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW). Among the other European contenders for this year’s round of BGTW Awards are the Balkans Peace Park ( and a small company that offer tailor-made cruises for small groups through Scotland’s Hebridean islands (
    Nicky and Susanne (editors – hidden europe magazine)


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