Where do you ride your bicycle? Vélib in Paris and Hubway in Boston want to know!

Commemorative cups celebrating the 5th anniversary of Vélibs in Paris. After Stéphane bought these two mugs for our children, I went back to the temporary boutique to get some more and was told that they were sold out. Unfortunately, they only made 40 of each model because they weren't sure if there would be a demand for them. There was!

With over 20,000 bicycles, the Vélib public bike sharing system is well on its way to becoming as synonymous with Paris as the Eiffel Tower. No matter the time of year or the weather, it's easy to spot enthusiastic cyclists crossing the Pont St. Louis or making their way precariously around the Place de la Concorde. Whenever I see an impeccably dressed woman in a skirt and high heels or a man balancing a large musical instrument on the back of his bicycle, I always want to ask where they're headed. It seems that I'm not the only one who wants to know because the official website for the city of Paris recently posted a slide show of people who responded to the question, "Tu vas où avec ton Vélib'?" (Where do you go with your Velib?"). My favorite answer was by a couple from New York who said, "We're wandering around without a precise destination today. Maybe we'll go to the Luxembourg or the Tuileries, we'll see." Please click here to view the slideshow.

The two women from Hubway generously agreed let me take their photo when I explained that we live in Paris. They also took the opportunity to ask me some questions about Vélibs. It's a good thing that Stephane was there to answer them!

Interestingly enough, the public bike sharing program in Boston that is based on the Parisian one wanted to know, "Women! Why do you bike??" and "Women! Why don't you ride??" when I was at the Copley Square Market last week. Responses to "Why not" outnumbered "why" and included:

  • Live too far from work/life.
  • I'm scared of getting killed.
  • I have a scooter and can't believe how unbelievably rude bicycling has become in the city. (I biked for 20 years.)

As a Vélib virgin, I can easily relate to the desire to remain alive. It's one of the main reasons why I haven't joined Stéphane as he cycles about Paris. My status is going to change though because I intend to start my Vélib adventure by biking through the Bois de Bolougne in the very near future. If I live to tell the tale, I'll let you know how it goes!

Velib website in English
Hubway website

Sometimes it's still preferable to walk rather than ride down the narrow streets of Paris.

Comments

  1. I was just on my way out the door, with my bike, when I saw your posting pop up on Facebook!

    Bike riding in the Bois de Bolougne--nice, sounds like a perfect Autumn adventure.

    We are so lucky here in Chicago to have the lakefront trail--18 splendid miles for riding with no cars.

    I love the woman in the pink and orange dress! Tres chic.

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    1. Many thanks for delaying your bike ride to comment, Joseph. Biking on a trail with no cars along Lake Michigan sounds like a dream. If you feel like cycling when you're in Paris in September, I know a certain Swiss man who would love to go with you!

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  2. I love that dress too! And lucky getting the mugs, even if you missed out the second time. Tours has its own bike-sharing scheme, but I can't ride/am too scared...

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    1. The dress is fantastic as are her heels! I would need to be lowered onto the bike, kind of like they used to lower knights onto horses, if I was wearing something like that.

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  3. "We're wandering around without a precise destination today." The perfect attitude for discovering the joys of any location and Paris if the perfect city to take this approach. The public bicycle schemes that are now popping up in cities all over the world make unfettered wandering increasingly possible.

    The shot of the woman in the pink and orange dress is wonderful...what a great juxtaposition of images Mary Kay.

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    1. Thanks, Baron. Your comment makes stalking the two women well worth it. I was seriously worried that they would notice me ducking behind garbage bins and following them down the street to get the shot! ;)

      When I was traveling to the States, I read an interesting article in Time or Newsweek about the increasing number of bicycles on the roads and what cities are doing to make it safer for cars, bikes and pedestrians to share limited space.

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  4. I'm glad I'm not the cheese that stands alone on this! Riding Velibs in Paris is scary. I've taken those bad boys out for a spin a few times and find that when there isn't a bike lane, the cars come way too close. It's a shame because I love biking, aside for being great for the buns, you can zip around town a lot quicker!

    Good plan to start in the park. Hey, we should go together!

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    1. Yes, we should! After our twitter exchange this morning, I asked Stephane how to register my Navigo pass on the Velib website. I'll be ready to go as soon as you get back to Paris!

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  5. As you know I am now a biking obsessive, mainly thanks to using the velib system in Paris, which inspired me to bike more at home.

    I understand that people are initially nervous riding bikes in traffic, but really, coming from a distinctly UNfreindly and UNaware bike town, Paris is SO bike friendly and the traffic SO bike aware, due to the velibs. There are also so many traffic free routes and bike lanes in Paris it is a cyclists dream! You can get around using bike lanes and I never attempt to cross a line of traffic( as in turning left in Paris ) I get off and walk across the road using the crossing...actually I find pedestrians and other cyclists more of a nuisance..

    The Bois de Bologne is wonderful for cycling as is the Bios de Vincennes. I stopped for lunch at the Chalet des Iles, which you know well, last summer during a wonderful day riding around the Bios de Bologne. Jane and I also had lunch in the town of Vincennes near the market, and finished the day along the Canal St Martin during our bike riding day.

    http://denisefrombolton.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/biking-buddies.html

    So it is good to know that Boston has a cycle scheme also ( have I mentioned I am going soon LOL!) Thanks for the link.

    Off to go into town on my bike!

    Love Denise

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    1. Reading your post, "Biking Buddies" and seeing the photos of your day with Jane are a huge inspiration, Denise. The smiles on your faces convinced me that biking in Paris is something that I have to try. After all, I can't let the visitors from Cincinnati and Bolton have all the fun!

      When you're in Boston, I hope that you'll have time to cycle along Boston's Emerald Necklace (Click on highlighted words for more info.) Stephane did and really enjoyed it.

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  6. I think you, me, and Miss Ella should rendezvous in the Bois for a bike ride. It's best to start after 6:30 a.m. there, before that time I've gotten a few funny looks. If I could speak French, I'd yell, "No I am not a prostitute on a bike." I am serious about the bike riding together though.

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    1. Sounds like a great idea! And I agree, it's definitely better to go after 6:30 am...not because of the funny looks but because I would have a hard time getting to the park that early! Mlle Ella gets back this week so we need to set a date.

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  7. ^Lol at Jacki's comment!

    You're going to love using the Velib. I have to admit, I was nervous sharing lanes with the buses, but the park is a good place to start.

    Love that woman's outfit, that is one fashionable bicyclist! I wouldn't be opposed to biking in a loose-fitting skirt, but a tight sheath and stilettos is too gutsy for me. Good for her, though!

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    1. Excellent point about the buses! I've been so busy worrying about the cars that I hadn't even thought about the larger vehicles! The park definitely sounds like the better option, especially if I'm with Mlle Ella and Jacki.

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  8. Bike enthusiast that I am, I don't really like cycling in the city. I've tried a Vélib, but it's top-heavy and cumbersome after the bike I usually ride. I've ridden my own in Paris though, with my husband in front of me. He is your typical French bike rider - ignores the red lights, goes the wrong way down the street (I'm not talking about when it's official), turns at the last moment without indicating, swings round to look at something (I'd fall off!) - and really can't understand my reluctance to follow. When we ride outside Paris, he tells me not to worry about the cars, they'll just avoid me. Well, so far, they have, but I'm still more careful than he is and prefer to pull over and let the cars go past me if I feel them banking up behind me. The only time he tells me to move out of the way is when there's a tractor coming.

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    1. I had to smile at your husband's nonchalant attitude while cycling and your reluctance to follow him. It reminds me of when I go skiing with Stephane. He just doesn't get why I'm worried when he's not! Personally, I think that you're a very wise woman to pull over and let the cars go around you. I've seen some impatient drivers come entirely too close to cyclists when they pass them.

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