How to take a Velib bike ride in Paris

Written by on August 28, 2017 in Guest Blogs, Paris

On a warm sunny day, there’s no better way to get around Paris than with a Velib bike.  Bike friendly Paris has installed hundreds of Velib bike rental stations for locals and tourists alike. Author Michael Barry shares his bike riding in Paris experience…

Velib bikes in Paris

For a small daily or weekly fee, you can ride for 30 minutes free of charge, but after 30 minutes you’ll have to pay a small fee to encourage you to return the bike to a local docking station for someone else to use.  You can get surprisingly far in 30 minutes, so it’s very reasonable.  The three-speed bikes look a little clunky with their big frames and front basket, but the ride is smooth and they take hills better than my bike at home.

From our apartment on Rue Monge in the Latin Quarter, there were two docking/rental stations two blocks away: one at the Metro stop and one on Rue Dolomieu.  My wife Lisa and I could make it to Notre Dame or the Sorbonne with plenty of time to spare.  Ninety percent of our ride to the Seine was downhill, so it was a breeze.  We could even make it to the Musée d’Orsay without trouble, because traffic moved in that direction with dedicated bike lanes starting about halfway down.

Cycling etiquette in Paris

Returning home was a different story, we usually ended up walking our bikes a part of the way uphill.  I have to admit we learned the hard way that there is a certain etiquette with biking in a big city.  Yes, yes, and I’m sorry, but we were two of those nincompoop tourists who broke “a couple” of the rules, at least we did till we learned what not to do.  Most of our infractions were due to getting somewhere far away and not knowing how to get home, so we’d muscle our way back the way we came, against traffic.

Our enthusiastic, naive peddling upstream was not always received well by the gnarly old taxi drivers, and some of the local pedestrians let us know what they thought of our level of intelligence.  We learned a lot of new French curse words this way.  We would, however, pull over when fellow bikers came our way or crowds got too big and walk the bikes. With time we learned to cross the river and drive with traffic till we got to Pont de Sully bridge, and cross back over the Seine, one block from the Jardin des Plantes where there were usually no angry crowds.

Cycle like a local in Paris

One day we thought it would be “romantic” to peddle our bikes on the lower part of the Seine from our apartment to the Eiffel Tower.  After a few blocks the path went from smooth as silk asphalt to historic cobblestone which would shake the bejesus out of you. To make matters worse, there was a nice convenient ramp to get down to the lower portion of the Seine, but no such ramp back up, just steps.  All that bone-jarring shake down for nothing, we had to turn around and jiggle our way back to the ramp from whence we came.

Yes, the Velib bikes were an incredible way to get around Paris, and after about two weeks we blended in with the locals. We learned that if you approached a docking station and you came upon bikes with the seats turned backwards, don’t take it because that’s how the locals let the repair men know there’s something mechanically wrong with the bike. Once I returned a seat to its normal position and wobbled all the way to the Louvre.

Also, before you start your journey, the Velib website,, will let you know how many bikes are at your favorite docking stations and just as important, how many empty spots there are near your destination. You may have to alter where you pick-up or where you drop off according to this information. There are so many docking stations, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Sure there was a learning curve to biking in Paris, but it was well worth it.  You get to see things you wouldn’t on the Metro or bus. So, if it’s a dry day, grab a Velib for memories to last a lifetime.  And by the way, don’t bike through the Jardin des Tuileries kicking up dust, you might get yelled at by a guy with a badge like these two idiots we saw when we were there (ok, I’ll admit, it was us).

Michael A. Barry is the author of “Vagabonds in France” (

Related Articles

How to fake speaking French in just one minute

This might be just the thing for those of us who want to fake French with zero effort, well except for watching a 60 second video. Oliver Gee, an Australian journalist in Paris who runs a podcast called The Earful Tower shares his top tips for how to fake French and fool everyone (maybe)… Here’s […]

Continue Reading

Give us this day our daily bread in France | Les Porteuses de Pain

If you like bread, then when you’re in France you probably stop by the boulangerie every day to buy a baguette, croissant, or one of the other tempting treats that you will find inside. But if you were a bourgeois, or wealthy, family in the nineteenth or early twentieth century and lived in a town, […]

Continue Reading

Some of the best cheese shops in Paris

Some of the best cheese shops in Paris

Written by on February 6, 2018 in Paris

It’s said that Napoleon first tasted Camembert in Normandy and kissed the waitress who served him. Great cheese makes you very happy. Presidents Obama and Hollande were offered the best of French cheeses at the Climate Change Forum in 2015 from a Parisian fromagerie – Alleosse.  This great honour demonstrated how much the French, with […]

Continue Reading

5 fun Paris night clubs in unusual places

When it comes to night life, you’re totally spoiled in Paris. Bars, cafés, restaurants, cinema, theatre, late night openings at museums and galleries, concerts and a whole heap more. And when it comes to clubs, Paris is a-buzz. We take a look at some of the best clubs in the most surprising and extraordinary locations… […]

Continue Reading

The historic shopping passages of Paris

The historic shopping passages of Paris

Written by on January 17, 2018 in Paris

There are around a dozen still trading ancient shopping passages of Paris. Reminiscent of earlier days of a glamorous Parisian culture, they are a joy to experience. Some of them are sheltered by a glass ceiling, some lie hidden in side streets and some exude a bright, shining and glowing art deco persona that instantly […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.