The school holidays were a week ago, and we finally went to Paris. It's been a dream of mine to hire a cargo bike sometime, so the wife kindly allowed me to risk everyone's lives to do it.

At the bike shop, luckily there are no little bikes for the 6 year old. They do have a cargo ready to go, yeeha! The boys are super excited now and jump in the wheelbarrow part. As we start off, they're both singing away, to the appreciation of passers by. We're going to the river, luckily downhill while I get used to this bohemoth.

On the river here, we're on the footpath. There are trees planted in the footpath, so as not to disturb the cars. The odd pedestrian ducks out of the way, as there's no space. They smashed down and remade a lot of Paris, so that they could have the "grande boulevardes". What's the point of having super wide streets everywhere if the vast bulk of the people are forced into the tiny area at the side, with all the street signs, trees, vendors, and cafes.

A helpful local guides us down to the riverside path. Never accept advice in France on where you should be riding. This is a construction zone. We have to go the wrong way up a one way street. The cobble stone footpath following isn't much better. We stop for the Eiffel Tower. We can't work out how to get a 40kg bike up a staircase, so we lock up and walk up.

Further along, away from the river, we stop for lunch. The footpath is about 4m wide: 1.5m for the cafe, 1.5m for more seating, and about 1m left with a post in it for people. I can just squeeze past to park, near the motorbikes strewn all around. There's space on the road for 3 lucky cars to park, a construction bin, a toilet, and a large van.

They say a traveller doesn't know where he's going, and a tourist doesn't know where he's been. Neither is clear today. We get to the Champs Elysees. It's the most important street in the city, and the most disgusting disappointing 8 lane cobble stone traffic sewer in the world. We go on the street, as the footpath is packed. Taxis double park, cars weave through, and buses come too close. One taxi comes strangely close past the missus, and hooks her handlebars. She's pushing on his windows to stay up. He accelerates, and down she goes, in slow motion. Everyone's stopped behing us in lane 2 patiently, and the taxi is stopped ahead. He's saying it's his fault and offering to call an Ambulance. She's ok. Now we continue on the footpath. It's an obstacle course of newspaper kiosks, postcard stands, metro entrances, etc with hundreds of tourists.

The Arc de Triomphe is a bigger disaster zone, about 8 lanes wide. In the middle lies the unknown soldier who gave his life for the country. In the worst insult imaginable, cars rev, honk, make noise and stink up the place. The cars should really just f88 off and give this person the peace they deserve in their final resting place.

The roll back down to the river in a bus lane is only moderately scary. Along the river is really pleasant, a properly separated path and heaps of trees. One guy yells at us for stopping on the path to check the map. Get a life! A detour in the Tuileries Garden has lovely gravel paths in the greenery.

Further on, the 3o'clock traffic blocks the ped crossing. How do they put up with it each day? The taxis honk us in the bus lane, then we pass them 5 minutes later as they sit stuck.

A group of 40 odd schoolkids cheer us on. Around Notre Dame a Japanese couple, and others, take our photo. We stop to look at the old Orient Express. A trip to Bastille monument in a bus lane is moderately horrifying and a waste of time.

In the sixth arondissement, the roads are all 20km/h, narrow and low traffic. A gelato stop tops off the feeling that we finally found my idea of cycle heaven. It's followed by a playground stop. The only noise is kids yelling and laughing. The paths back to the bikeshop from here are excellent.

There's not many cyclists for a city of 10 odd million. The bus lanes are sh--. The contra flows are horrifying. A colleague, who is a cycling nut, and lives in Paris told me he never cycles in Paris. It's better than Sydney, but that's like comparing it to the kid sitting at the back of the class staring out the window. I give Paris a "pas terrible" 7/10.

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Comment by Neil Alexander on May 13, 2014 at 9:08am

I think it's what you get used to... My recollection of first riding in Paris in 1987 was that the traffic was sh!t but, while the drivers were pushy, they were not vindictive as many Aussie drivers are.

We were confused about where to go, French signposting being less than intuitive IMO, but we took the lane and people avoided us without drama. Perhaps having bikes heavily laden with panniers and camping equipment engendered additional sympathy.

Comment by PeterT on May 13, 2014 at 9:15am
Ouch to hear of your wife behind run off by the taxi. I briefly entertained the thought of renting a cargo bike in Paris but it slipped into the too hard to find basket and your experience with one doesn't sound great!
We did a family bike tour,and that was our standout Parisian experience, probably even edging out the Comte cheese.
I took a 24 hour Velib pass and tested out several solo rides, I didn't recall any dramas then and was mostly on the road.
Comment by PeterT on May 13, 2014 at 9:35am
One more thing, that was 2 years ago, and the 6 yo and 9 yo were on tagalong bikes
Comment by Edward Re on May 13, 2014 at 11:17pm

Sounds like you two had a very nice time of it. Am definitely not used to this amount of traffic anymore. The cargo bike was a bit slow, so uncomfortable in it.

After the Comte cheese, hope you ate some Roquefort.


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