BICYCLING

It’s the national sport, and not only do bikes get fair road treatment out in Tour de France country, but Paris is getting better by leaps and bounds at accommodating heavier traffic from cyclists. This dates back to the transport strike in 1995, when two-wheelers held the advantage, and it has been developed since, with the restriction of motor vehicles on the riverside quais on Sundays, and the recent proliferation of separate bike/bus lanes. Get in practice by taking a bike out with one of the local tour groups, then head to the Bois de Vincennes, take a train out to Rambouillet forest or trek 40 kilometers up the bike path to Melun.

Note: Cyclists follow the same rules of the road as motorists. This means that traffic coming from the right has priority, and you can get a hefty fine for running red lights or for not being equipped with head and tail lights. As in any big city, make sure to use a U-lock to secure your bike or it will be gone.

For biking and bike-path information go to the Mairie de Paris (in English).

Who hasn't heard of the smashing success of the Vélib? Launched the summer of 2007, there are now 20,000 bicycles available at over 1,450 stations, which means about 1 station every 300 metres throughout the city centre, with wikipedia claiming it the largest system of its kind in the world. Pick up a bike near the Hotel de Ville and drop it off half an hour later near that restaurant next to Porte Maillot where you're meeting friends. A year-long subscription to the 24/7 service costs 29€, for 30 minutes at a time. In any case, everyone agrees it's a great alternative to the already excellent public transportation service, although sometimes you can get stuck because of no availability of bikes, or no place to put back your bike after the maximum 30 minutes.

For visitors, two short-term subscriptions are available, by the week for 5€ or daily for 1€. But beware: while it runs on credit cards, you need one with a chip and a code - the city is working on getting around that. Here are practical details in English.

Weekly bicycle randonnées: Every Friday night, a bicycle ride through Paris starting at 22h from Place d'Italie, with a different itinerary each week, posted at website ParisRandovelo, email: parisrandovelo@yahoo.fr or tel: 06.60.64.20.20.

Paris à Vélo, c’est sympa! Bike tours by theme, bikes available for rent, English spoken.
37, bd Bourdon, 75004, Mº Bastille, tel: 01.48.87. 60.01.

Fat Tire Bike Tours has replaced Mike's Bikes, and has become a ubiquitous cycling tourism biz (also in Barcelon and Berlin), thanks to their friendly, fun and knowledgeable guides, tel: 01.56.58.10.54. Oh, yes, and they organise the Segway tours, too. See: www.parissegwaytours.com. In Paris at 24, rue Edgar Faure, 75015.

Tour de France: Not only can you watch the final laps around the Champs-Elysées, but ambitious cyclists can assault the same mountain route the professionals are taking that year. There are festivities in the Champs de mars the weekend of the finale, with a mass ride around the city. Also, check out the informative Tour de France Times written by James Raia, available at: http://byjamesraia.com

Bicycle taxis (vélo-taxi), tel: 01.42.72.70.12. Provides short or all-day service.

Renting/repairing mountain/dirt bikes, or VTTs:

Paris Velos, 2 rue du Fer a Moulin, 5th arrondissement, tel: 01.43.37.59.22, http://www.paris-velo-rent-a-bike.fr/ - it's also in English, click on the British flag on the left panel.

Roulez Champion, 5 rue Humblot, 15eme, tel: 01.40.58.12.22, friendly and helpful, open 7/7, 10h-20h, see www.roulezchampion.com.

Bike 'n' Roller, 6 rue Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, 5th arrondissement, tel: 01.44.07.35.89.

Cycl'Art by Bicloune, 93, blvd de Beaumarchais, 10e, tel: 01.42.77.58.06.

Décathlon, 26 av de Wagram, 8th, tel: 01.45.72.66.88. Décathlon is the sports department store where you can buy or repair your bicycle, and buy any other type of sports equipment you may be looking for. Another location: 17 blvd de la Madeleine, Mº Madeleine, tel: 01.55.35.97.55

Action Custom Bike, 1 blvd Edgar Quinet, 14th, tel: 01.43.21.88.38, are VTT specialists.

ASSOCIATIONS:

Cyclists revolt with Vélorution, a citizens' group on wheels working together to take back the streets - to reduce the importance of automobiles in our lives. An action "anti-bagnole" of cyclists, skaters and walkers is scheduled for 14h, Saturday 1st May, at Place du Châtelet. To keep up with the action, check their website at http://velorution.free.fr/.

Roue Libre is an association sponsored by RATP (public transport service) and offers group rides (“balades”), including a weekly ride on Saturday mornings. From March to September, they also organize free Citybike tours around Paris and rent bicycles as well!
95 bis, rue Rambuteau, 75001, Mº Les Halles, tel: 01.53.46.43.77.

Mouvement de Défense de la Bicyclette is a sort of cyclists’ union, looking out for the rights of cyclists on the road. They also organize group rides.
32 rue Raymond-Losserand, 75014, Mº Pernety, tel: 01.43.20.26.06

Fédération francaise de cyclotourisme is a hub for information on those wanting to enjoy cycling, on an amateur basis. With 120,000 members and a list of 3,100 clubs around France, these are the folks responsible for the official training of tour-guides for biking treks, and has lots of info for rides out of town. Also publishes a monthly, Cyclotourisme, plus a national calendar with dates for treks, rallies and tourism. Tel: 01.56.20.88.88.

Comité d'Ile-de-France de la Fédération francaise de cyclisme is the pro, or "sportif", branch of the above federation. Tel: 01.42.87.00.10.

Recommended books:
Faire du vélo à Paris, mini guide published by Parigramme
Best Biking Guide to Paris and Day Trips Outside Paris, by Rose Marie Burke, see the Insider Paris Guide site.

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