Tag Archives: renting Velibs as an American

The freedom of Vélib’

The hectic pace of life lately has me thinking about our vacation again. It was a real pleasure to go back over the photos and remember our day on Vélib’ cycles in Paris.

First, the practicalities: if you are an American, you must have two things in order to easily rent a Vélib’. First, an American Express Card (the only non-puce card that is accepted), and second, a rudimentary command of Vending Machine French—though the menu offers an English-language option, the translation isn’t the greatest and it reverts to French halfway through.

Armed with both of those things, we timidly approached our first Vélib’ machine outside a cafe a few blocks away from the Gare St. Lazare.

It took us about 30 minutes to get the three of us registered (you have to buy a day pass for 1 euro, after that renting the bikes are free for the first 30 minutes) and in possession of the bikes, but after that, we were off.

Riding in Paris was much, much less stressful than I had expected. Of course, it was a Sunday, but our ride to the Champs-Elysées was quick and easy. Before we left, we checked the map, decided on a route, memorized the few turns necessary (those long boulevards in Paris mean it’s unusual to have to turn more than 3 or 4 times on any given route) and set off.

Many of the bus lanes in Paris doubled as bike lanes. At first I was unsure whether that was a good idea, but it turned out to work amazingly well.

I think this guy's eye was caught by Dot's red dress!

Once we had them, we tooled around all afternoon and well into the night. There are so many stations that you don’t even have to plan to find them—half the time you’ll run into one on your way to your destination. And if you don’t walk, a block or two and you will.

Our itinerary included a stop for a drink at L’Hotel, where Oscar Wilde died.

And a break for Ladurée macarons (psst: Pierre Hermé‘s are better).

And of course, plenty of photo ops.

It’s true that you have to take a close look at your Vélib’ before checking it out—we ended up with a bike with a flat tire once, and another time couldn’t get all three of our bikes from the same station—but overall, the system was extremely easy and cheap, and by far the best way to get around Paris.We were kicking ourselves for not trying it out sooner.

large velib station on the boulevard Beaumarchais

And if you’re wondering how the city makes sure the bikes are evenly distributed between stations, or how the bikes are taken in for repair, we spotted this transporter loaded up with Vélibs on our way home from dinner.

Parlement at night

Parlement at night

Notre Dame at night, as seen from a Vélib'

Notre Dame at night, as seen from a Vélib'

Anyone else had any Vélib’ experience?

{snapshots by me, film photos by Dot with her Nikon}

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