À l’air libre…in French this means “in the open air”. In spring and summer there is no better way to experience the city than by bike. Paris is an incredibly friendly place to cycle in. Bike paths are clearly laid out, the terrain fairly flat, drivers surprisingly courteous, and then of course there is Vélib! Vélib is the revolutionary public bike system introduced to the city about a decade ago. Paris’s progressive public bikes have since inspired similar systems in New York, Vancouver, and beyond. With stations every several hundred meters you can pick up and drop off a bike at your convenience for a very small fee, and thus Vélib has become one of the best ways for tourists to see the city affordably and efficiently.
I recently talked to the expert, Lindsey Tramuta, journalist and author of Paris à l’air libre, the official Vélib guide to get some insights on biking Paris! Here’s what she had to say…
Why is Vélib a great way to see Paris?
“Firstly, it makes you feel like a local! Vélib helped establish Parisian bike culture. Now locals of all ages use Vélib to go to work, run errands, meet friends, or simply traverse the city for pleasure. As a traveler, I often look for ways to experience a new place as a local. With Vélib you'll ride alongside locals and more easily allow yourself to get lost in the warren of side streets and impasses. That's where the magic is!
Secondly, it keeps you active. Exploring Paris by foot is incredible and certainly very easy but there's something about feeling the air whip through your hair as you ride along the river banks that just can't be topped. Not only that, if you're like me, you'll be consuming quite a number of indulgences so getting your heart rate up does a tremendous amount of good!
And of course it streamlines your visit if you’re short on time. By bike, you can optimize travel time to see as much as you can. Seeing the city on two wheels is a great way to maximize that time and get to your must-see spots as quickly as possible.”
Do you have a Vélib itinerary to recommend?
“One of my favorite itineraries will take you along the Seine. Start at Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis and continue via the left bank to the Musée d’Orsay. Then, cycle around Les Invalides before heading toward the Eiffel Tower nearby. You can loop around and then head back the way you came.”
Follow Lindsey on her blog for more great Paris tips! No matter where you are, exploring by bike is one of the best ways to enjoy where you live. So this summer, why not do as the Parisians do and cycle your city?