(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.
BudgetTravel.com 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.