Since July 2007, parisians and visitors have discovered a new way to move in Paris: Velib. The huge success in the very beginning of the operation had shown a real need for a new and modern way to move around.
What is it all about? A short term rental of bicycle for short trips in the city. It proposes a nice alternative to public transport system. Thousands of bicycles are available for subscribters who can use them as often as they want. 1 day, 7 days or year long subscribtions are possible for 1€, 5€ and 29€. The first half-hour of use is always free, the next ones are charged 1€ for the first one, 2€ the second one and 4€ for all next half-hours. A raising rate to remember that the system is conceived for short time using, longer time bicycle rental are still better in classic rental shops. Of course you can put your bike back, wait three minutes and take again a bike for a new free half-hour. Velib stations can be found in lot of places all around the city, with an average of one station every 300 meters, and you can use it as often as you want, and if you give it back in the next half-hour, you wont pay a dime more than the suscribtion rate.
Owners of Navigo pass or Velib card can put it on the bicycle support and there they go! The others have to choose the bicycle they want through the automatic machine.
Parisians have very quickly adopted the system to move freely in town and visitors use it as a fantastic way to visit the city. However, lots of youth problem still need to be remembered to really enjoy it:
- The system works only with credit card with chip. A big part of visitors can not use the system.
- The are a huge number of stations all over the city, but they usually are rather difficult to find. You have few chances to see them in large streets or famous places. It a good idea to have a Velib map to avoid long searching at arrival. It can be stressful to search for a place to give a bicycle back and not finding it while clock is running... Districts maps can be found on the Velib website.
- Lots of bicycles are already broken. Check it before starting the rental, because if you have to put it back, you will have to wait three minutes to take another one! And that can be long when seeing other bicycles leave one by one! So check the brakes, mudguard, tires, chain and try to raise the byke a little bit to pedal.
- You should not use Velib if you are in a hurry or have an appointment. You may need time to find a free space to give the bicycle back and some stations can be completly out of order. If there is no space available, the automate gives you another 15 minutes credit to find another one. A good way to start a treasure hunt! A dynamic map should show the near stations with available spaces, but it doesn't work! In some districts, like Montmartre or Belleville, bicycles are rare because lots of people ride down the hill, but never climb it back! There are trucks who transfer some back, but it's far to be enough. So down the hills, stations are usually full. As are stations close to parties spots in the evening. Lots of occasion to have a hard time trying to give the bike back!
- Half an hour is a short time to travel in the town. Project conceptors said that it was the time to go from door to center. But with no drog it seems to be hugely underestimated! Add the time to find an available space to give the bike back and you have to closely check your watch to avoid to be charged.
- Paris is not a very good town for bike lovers. There are few tracks and the thousands of new bikes made it suddendly crowded. In most of it, you share space with buses and taxis who are not very patient with these new users. The redlights are made mostly for cars as they are synchronised for a 50 km/hour speed. Bike tracks suddenly stop before a dangerous crossroad or place and reappear on the other side. Meanwhile: good luck! Parisian motorists slowly get used to these new users of the public space, but you have to be very carefull anyway.
But don't be too afraid by these remarks. No doubt these problems will slowly be corrected. And Velib' system is a fantastic way to enjoy Paris at your own rhythm.
See the website http://www.velib.paris.fr/