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  Cycling in the heart of Paris  

Heading for Place de la Concorde. A two-lane cyclists' track alongside the Seine River.
Despite being one of the world's busiest cities it is surprisingly easy to go about on a bicycle in Paris. Even in the heart of Paris city itself most roads have a cyclists' lane (and where none exists bicycles are allowed to share the lane meant for local buses).
The icing on the cake is that some one-way streets for motorists have been turned into two ways for cyclists (as can be seen from the photo on the right).
In fact you can easily visit all the major tourists' attractions in Paris on bicycle and not worry too much about being run down by cars.
In an effort to keep the city pollution-free the City of Paris is popularizing the use of bicycles (see box below) thus following the example of other French cities such as Lyon, Strasbourg and La Rochelle.
According to Paris City Hall there are at present 314 kilometers of bike lanes inside the city of Paris. Moreover a number of streets are closed to motorists on Sundays and public holidays in order to give free rein to cyclists and rollerbladers.
The two famous woods at Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes alone have 23 kms of bike paths - making family outings on bicycles a pleasurable pursuit on week-ends.
Le Périphérique i.e. the freeway encircling Paris is particularly adapted for cycling. In fact this circular freeway (served by three lines of PC buses) passes through all the entrances to Paris (hence the name Porte attached to the underground stations round it) which served as check-points to enter Paris in the 19th century. If you think it is fun to cycle round Paris (instead of inside it) be warned that Le Périphérique covers a total distance of 36 kms!
I can't finish this article without a warning. If you should come anywhere near the huge Arc de Triomphe roundabout don't try to go to the opposite side of it like the motorists do. I used to do it some years back. But that was because I was quite foolhardy then and also because I knew exactly which of the 12 avenues round it I was heading for. It would definitely be more prudent here to go round the peaceful circular road called Rue de Tilsitt in one semi-arc and Rue de Presbourg in the other semi-arc instead (look at a map of Paris and you'll see what I mean).

You are likely to have seen this Velib' logo when you visit Paris. It is a real boon to tourists and Parisians alike. It's like having a bike for use all over Paris and not having to maintain it. It came into service on 15th July 2007 when the Paris City Hall created 750 bicycle stations with 24-hour access and open 7/7 in an effort to reduce pollution. For a small fee one can borrow a bicycle from one station and after using it, return it at another that is close to one's destination. There is no payment for the first 30 minutes. However in order to make use of them one has first to pay a membership fee. This can be for a day (1.70), a week (8) or a year (29). But if you are prepared to pay 10 euros more for a year's subscription i.e. 39 euros, then you are entitled to the first 45 minutes free (instead of 30 minutes). The day or week option is really great for tourists. Whatever your choice you will still have to leave a safety deposit of 150 euros (by cheque or an authorisation for a direct debit from your Visa credit card). This is just the membership fee. You will then have to pay according to the time that you used the bicycle i.e. 1 for the next 30 minutes after the first 30 minutes (which is free) and 2 for the 30 minutes that follow. After that it will be at the rate of 4 for each 30 minutes. Hey, if you think of renting it for a whole day better forget about it. It's going to be EXPENSIVE! Although it is not a commercial project the whole idea behind this City Hall scheme is for short-term use. If it is used for just an hour it's fine (since the first half-hour is free you pay only 1 for using it for an hour). But if you intend to use it to go to the Louvre Museum and park it just outside there for two-and-a-half hours while you have your date with Mona Lisa you might just as well forget about it. For it's going to cost you at least 11 (and an extra 4 euros for every half hour after that)! The sensible thing to do is to return it to the station nearest to the Louvre Museum (too bad if you have to walk some distance after that) and then to look for another bicycle after your visit (since the card is valid for the whole day).
But there are certain drawbacks:
WARNING 1: If you have the misfortune of having your Velib stolen you are obliged to make a police report and as if this is not enough, pay 35 euros to the Velib company as a penalty although you have locked it up.
WARNING 2: Not all their locks work well. You might find that you just couldn't unlock the bicycle on your return (it has happened to me). The employee wasted 15 minutes of my mobile phone time because he couldn't locate the road on his map (they need the exact address in order for one of their trucks to come and recuperate the stubbornly-locked bicycle).
WARNING 3: Also you have to watch out for the bicycle chain that suddenly goes haywire when you change gears making it a real security hazard. In fact, after one and a half years of its existence, 8 cyclists who were on Velib have been killed in Paris road accidents.

Not an aesthetic sight but completely safe for cyclists - and that's what matters.

Cycling in comfort and under leafy trees near the Pigalle area. But do watch out for pedestrians, dogwalkers and rollerbladers, some of whom might not be aware that it is a cyclists' path.

Buses and bicycles coexist in harmony in the city centre of Paris.

Here bicycles and buses go their separate ways.
As a matter of fact there is a lane for cyclists, another for buses and a third for cars.