Lately, I made a four-day trip to Paris with the intention to explore this beautiful city and the many highlights it offers. As you may know, it is a terrible job to explore the city by car. The traffic is busy, the stereotype Parisian drives like a retard, and moreover parking spaces are scarce and pretty expensive (1).
The public transport on the other hand, is a wise alternative for tourists. With its 14 metro lines, 8 RER lines, and more than 50 bus lines (2), Paris has a renown public transport system (3). A day ticket for zone one and two (covering the whole city centre) will cost you 7 euros and allows you to make use of all three transportation facilities.
Knowing these facts, I decided to stall my car at the hotel’s parking lot and make use of the public transport.
On the first day of my stay, I swiftly noticed an abundance of grey bikes throughout the city. As a bicycle loving Dutchman, I was curious about the ins and outs of these funnily looking bikes called Vélib’ (Velo Libre, ‘free bike’) and subsequently obtained information at the tourist office.
The Vélib’ is a self-service bike rental initiative by the municipality of Paris, launched in 2007 (4). More than 20.000 bikes are scattered throughout the city, distributed over approximately 1500 different bike stations (5). To access this service, customers can buy a 1-day (€1.70) or 7-day (€8) subscription at any of the stations through a terminal or via the web (4). With this subscription you are allowed to pick up and return bikes at all Vélib’ stations throughout Paris (see figure 1).
Figure 1 – Vélib’ stations (purple dots)
Is it that simple and cheap? Yes and no. Firstly, €150 has to be paid as bail (all transactions are by credit card and the bail is immediately returned afterwards) before the service can be accessed so that people actually return the bicycles (institutional arrangement). Furthermore, the first 30 minutes of each trip are free. After that, the usage is subjected to exponentially rising costs (see figure 2) to prevent people from occupying the same bike for a long period of time (6).
Figure 2 – tariffs
Besides their predilection for bikes, Dutch people are known for their parsimony and so was I. Knowing that the first 30 minutes of a bike ride are free, I always made sure I returned or swapped my bike in time. For me, this was not a problem at all since Vélib’ stations are nearly at every corner of a street and I like to alternate the bikerides with walking and/or sightseeing.
In my opinion, the Vélib’ initiative is an easy and cheap way to explore the city of Paris and moreover cities in general. I had a great day making use of a dozen of bicycles and it took me only €1.70. Travelling by bike prevents you from getting exhausted of walking distances that are a little too long. Besides, you see a lot more of the city as opposed to traveling by (underground) public transport.
- Header image: http://citiesnext.com/project/velib-bikes/
- Figure 1: http://parismap360.com/en/paris-bike-map#.VTEM4bpV504
- Figure 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vélib’