Cycling in Sydney Australia
Regaled by negative stories of Paris Metro mayhem, and anxious about language barriers, I looked into using bicycles to get us around...
BLUE BIKES TOURS
On our very first night there, I booked us on the Blue Bikes river cruise and night tour of Paris. Absolutely amazing, and excellent value for money. The only disappointment was that the food and drinks by the riverboats at the foot of the Eiffel tower were all junk food and meteorically expensive- I'd rather go thirsty than pay E4.50 for a small bottle of water- so pack a picnic or eat beforehand. Paris by night is truly magical, and this tour helps you to get your bearings. Blue Bikes, unlike their competitors, will only take a maximum of 10 riders. I saw the competition and they had massive groups of 20-40 riders which is unmanageable for any tour guide to manage- AVOID. Our guide was a lovely, friendly young man, who spoke excellent english. We also did the Versailles day tour with Blue bikes. We met at the station in Paris & then bought our picnic at the local market near the station in Versailles. We then rode all over the vast palace gardens (which are open & free for all to enjoy) stopping for our picnic at the end of the Grand Canal. Our guide was very knowledgeable about Versailles and its history. He was also very disciplined in getting us in and out of all the places in this vast complex to maximise our experience of it. Blue Bikes Tours is the one for your Paris experience.
VELIB' BIKE SHARING
As soon as we got to Paris we also familiarised ourselves with our nearest Velib bike station. Veilb Paris gets around 86 000 hires a day! Hardly anyone bothers with a helmet. We hadn't done in depth research, so we randomly bought day tickets from the bike station pay point on Rue Louis Blanc near our hotel. The bikes, although very heavy, were easy to ride (my daughter isn't a cyclist & Paris is quite flat) They had a big basket in front, and integrated bike locks and lights. Once we had figured out riding on the RHS of the road, the labyrinthine street map and the organised chaos of Parisian traffic, bus and bike lanes- we were mixing it up like locals on the wheels of little old ladies sporting baguettes and groceries from local markets, and suited gentlemen with laptops slung cycle courier style across their backs. We were off the grubby, souvenir-choked pavements and out the crowds of 'meanderthals' with the personal freedom to go anywhere we wanted in the city! Awesome!
Here's a few Velib facts:
a) Get to your Velib station early! All the bikes were gone from ours by 08H00! Regardless, early is a great idea- we only waited 10minutes to get into the Louvre and early am traffic is not too bad for any visitors trying to familiarise themselves with Paris by bike without major stress. Parisians aren't mornings people it seems.
b) If there are only one or 2 bikes left, usually they are the 'dregs' and may have punctures or buckled wheels. Check the bikes first. You will cop a small fee of AU$2.68 for any 'mistakes' you make during the hiring process.
c) If you are funding your trip via a credit card, and not with cash in the bank, beware of the E150 bond that Velib holds on your credit card for 5-15 days when purchasing day tickets, after you hired their bikes. The bond is added even if you make a mistake. So, 4 hires with two mistakes can quickly add up to over AU$1400 which you cannot access until Velib deducts your actual hire and releases the deposits. If you can, rather purchase a Velib card or an online ticket. If not, DO NOT under any circumstances, misplace your day ticket!!
d) Our actual hire costs: Day 1 for 10 hours' hire: AU$57-16 each & Day 2 for 4 hours' hire AU$38.42 each. (RAD BIKES hire from Cologne Hauptbhannhof cost us E20 each for 8 hours' hire...) but... that's 'PAYris' for you with crap AU$$
Here's some tips about holiday cruising in Paris:
1) The roads are one ways on either side of the River Seine. Make sure you cross over the river to ride in the direction you need to go!
2) If you thought Sydney street layout was confusing- its exemplary compared to Paris. There's all these circles and squares where six or eight roads converge at different angles and it's really difficult to find your way on your first ride! At Bastille we navigated 6 lanes of traffic by following a local rider. (the first time we got off and walked around it- it took 30 minutes)
3) Don't ride fast. You are not a local & it could be a one way ticket to getting lunched by a car or a bus or hitting a pedestrian.
4) There are hundreds of pedestrian crossings. You can ride across them even if the light is red, providing you give way to any pedestrians first.
5) Stop at the street intersections when the light is red!
6) Expect to smell urine pretty frequently- there are next to no public toilets in Paris. There's also a fair number of homeless people and it was quite distressing to see young families with little kids sleeping rough on the streets we rode along.