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The Parisian Vélib’ program is still the standard for bike share programs worldwide (or at least we like to think). Fortunately for visitors, the service has become simpler than ever. Those without a puce, or microchip in their card, were once out of luck when trying to take a bike from a stand. But over the years, everything has changed, and it’s time for a rebooted lesson on the Vélib’.
Here’s what’s new with the Vélib’ program since our last update:
Join Vélib’ online
You don’t have a microchip credit card? No worries. Before heading to take the bike, subscribe online to Vélib’ Visit and get a reference number and password that will let you take out a bike from any station. You can do this up to 15 days before activating your short-term subscription of 1 or 7 days (€1.70 or €8, respectively), so if you’ll be out of range of the internet, you can plan ahead.
As before, the first half hour of riding is free with a subscription. Afterwards the first half an hour costs €1, the next half an hour €2, then €4 per 30 minutes beyond that. It’s probably the cheapest bike in town!
Buy from a cell phone (and use Wi-Fi hot spots)
If you forgot to sign up and you’re stuck at a station trying to take out a bike, all hope is not lost. If you have your smartphone or tablet, just head to the nearest McDonald’s, Starbucks, public park, or café with Wi-Fi and sign up via your mobile device. (See our previous post on where to find free Wi-Fi in Paris.)
The Vélib app (for iPhone and Android) will have you signed up in a few easy steps. Like signing up online, you’ll get a reference number and a code that can be used at any station to retrieve a bike.
Use the app to find bikes and parking
The official Vélib’ app also has a feature that’s useful if you’re not street-savvy in Paris beyond the Champs-Elysées and rue de Rivoli. It will tell you where the nearest bike station is by your destination and how many spots are left (or how many bikes, if you’re looking for one). This can help avoid that awkward delay when you have to tell your friends/tour guide/dining partner that you were late because you couldn’t find a Vélib’ parking spot.
The Mov’in Paris app is another app that acts as a great back-up to double check the availability at a station, in case you’re paranoid.
Etiquette and rules
Once you secure your Vélib’, make sure you know the rules of the road. Some have changed over the years, including the legal turning on red and legal riding against one-way traffic on most small streets. (Though caution is highly suggested while trying either.)
Otherwise, the normal rules still apply:
• Stay off the sidewalks.
• Stop at a red light.
• Stick to a bike lane even if it’s shared with a bus, and get out of it if it’s clearly marked “NO BICYCLES.”
• Ringing the bell is usually effective for moving pedestrians out of your way, but be prepared for sudden breaks.
• And if you have a helmet, feel free to wear it, but it’s not legally required.
With all of these changes, there’s no excuse not to enjoy Paris by bike. The only other thing you need is some sun to complete the perfect Parisian experience.
Your Vélib’ tips
Have some helpful suggestions to add to our list of Vélib’ tips? Share with us in the comments section.
Also in our guide: Planning a trip to Paris? Be sure to check out our Paris travel guide, which includes more ways to save on your trip, including reviews of the city’s best budget hotels (all centrally located, inspected and approved).