Pollution in Paris = Free Bike Rentals

Velib 3Among the many things I love about Paris is the city’s fantastic 24/7 low-cost bicycle rental program, called Velib’. 

And I was reminded of my fondness for Velib’ when I saw that because there is a smog problem in Paris this week (caused mostly by unusual weather patterns), bike rentals are completely free until the pollution clears.

This is a common approach in Paris when pollution becomes too great and air quality becomes an issue for the city’s more vulnerable population. But even when the program isn’t 100% free, it’s still a super cost-effective way to get around the City of Light!Velib 1

Here’s how it works: There are 20,000 rental bikes stored in 1,800 racks scattered throughout the city, with the maximum distance between rental stands just 300 meters (and much closer in the city center). Parisians can use the service through their Metro passes. Americans (and other tourists) can register for the program online — it requires a credit card to serve as a guarantee against theft.

There are two kinds of bikes: Regular bicycles (they’re green) and electric-assisted bikes (they’re blue). The electric-assisted bikes still require you to pedal, but you get a boost in speed and significant help in climbing hills (a huge plus in Montmartre). Passes are 5 euros for 24 hours for the green bikes and 10 euros for blue; and 20 euros for a three-day pass good for either type of bike. Shorter trips are closed at 3 euros for the first 45 minutes (free if you return the bike within just a half hour), with an additional euro charged for each 30-minute interval after that.

Velib 5When you get to your destination, you simply insert the bike into any open space on a Velib’ bike rack, and the computer logs your rental as completed and automatically charges your credit card for any time-based fees accrued. It couldn’t be easier.

Paris is a fantastic city to traverse by bicycle, and we highly recommend Saturday mornings up until about noon and Sundays until about 2 p.m. as largely traffic-free days in which to ride through the city center. The bike rentals are a great value and a terrific way to see the city any day, at any time, but for tourists who may need to frequently consult maps or may get lost among Paris’s tiny side streets, not having to worry about a lot of cars sharing the road with you is a major plus!