In a previous blog, I wrote that Paris isn’t really all that cyclist friendly and in the six months I’ve been cycling regularly in Paris, I am still unsure what to think.
Let’s get something out of the way; for all intents and purposes it is a safe city for cyclists.
I personally feel quite safe cycling almost everywhere in the city but I can see how it can be intimidating for those who are not used to it as I myself still cringe the few times I have to bike in a new area.
What to use
If you are living temporarily in Paris or do not have access for a storage space for your bike (as storing bikes will be nearly impossible in most apartments), Velib (the city run bike sharing program) is the best way to go. The yearly membership is € 29 and there is a station in every corner. You pick the bike you want, you drop it off when you arrive and done, no need to worry about bike theft or storage or anything of the sort.
Biking in Paris
- Paris is a very old city. Streets and bridges were built long before cars were even an idea and many road related things do not make sense especially for a North American.
- Streets are too small and sometimes two-ways.
- Bikes have priority in the express line on the right side of streets with the buses and taxis. This will find you trying to go straight and running the risk of being run over by a car turning right.
- Do not be intimidated by sharing the lane with buses they are quite aware of bicycles and rather respectful.
Of Helmets and cyclists
Helmets are one of the most controversial topics in the world. I learned that helmets are the way you spot North Americans in Paris. Parisians, like most Europeans, do not really do helmets; they are not mandatory, fashionable nor useful. While I do realize that wearing a helmet could potentially save my life if I get into a really bad accident, it is not that straight forward and I will leave it for this blog to make the argument for me.
As far as practicality goes, I bike without a helmet and it is quite convenient and safe. The only thing I think helmets could be useful in is blocking the old ladies yelling on the side walk.
Pros and cons of Velib
- easily accessible,
- 29 euros/year,
- app to guide you to the nearest station
- You get 15 extra minutes to find another station if the one you find is full.
- Cannot take a trip outside the city
- Can only use the bike a half hour at a time
- Sometimes when you are in rush, the only bike has a broken chain or there are no spots available to put your bike back.
A quick look at the stats shows that the rate of cyclist mortality in Paris is 0.8/10,000, compared to 0.3 in Copenhagen, 2,0 in Montreal, 1.9 in Portland and 3.8 in NYC.
In conclusion, cycling is a safe, economical, and fast way to commute in Paris. Not to mention, it helps me keep in shape for all the fatty, buttery French food I want to eat.