Walking and Biking Around Paris

SNCF St Lazare bike rental
The SNCF may not actually rent bikes at St. Lazare... yet.

Popular Program Resumed for 1998

Paris:- Friday, 20. March 1998:- It doesn't matter if it is 'fake' spring or a mild winter, tomorrow is the calendar-beginning of spring. In Paris' mild climate it could be 'spring' all winter, or winter could extend to 15. July. This year looks like 'spring.'

Last week in the 'Au Bistro' column, I mentioned that the local transport operators, the SNCF and the RATP, are renewing their bicycle lending operations of last year, starting immediately.

To verify this, I stop at a joint SNCF-RATP information booth in the big hall at La Défense, to get the latest word. The people manning the booth ask me where I found out about this - did I see it on a poster in the métro, for example?

At this point, I am not in the métro - all I know is what I read in last week's Le Parisien. The info people root around a bit and find a new brochure named 'Paris Visite' - which is a free, condensed version of a Gallimard Guide.

It is actually a big advertisement for the combo 'Paris Visite' card-ticket, which permits visitors to ramble around Paris and the Ile-de-France for a flat rate, for either one or several days. When the card-ticket is presented at various attractions, it is often worth minor discounts as well.

According to this brochure, the city's bicycle action is called 'Roue Libre' this year, and there are guided tours on the program. I am not sure about the rates for bicycle rentals, but they may be 20 francs for an hour, 45 francs for a half-day and 70 francs for a whole day - a RATP poster I will see later in the métro, gives the half-day price above.

The 'Paris Visite' card knocks 15 percent off the rental fees, and gives an extra 90 minutes of bicycle ride-time if you book a guided tour.

Paris' Pedestrian-Bicycle Action for 1998

The weekly pro-bike and pro-pedestrian demonstrations have resumed on Sundays and are officially sanctioned by the Hôtel de Ville.

Anybody can take part in these. They take place on both right-bank and left-bank Seine quais in the centre of the city. They have also expanded to other areas such as Mouffetardbike & Notre Dame Hotel and down into the 14th arrondissement, plus up to the quais de Jemmapes and Valmy in the 10th and the quais de la Loire and Marne in the 19th, near la Villette.

As these excursions are now 'official,' they have to have names and these are 'Paris-Piétons-Vélos' and 'Opération Promenade et Détente.' I don't suppose it matters which is where. However, there has been an explosion of these names - and the stuff for walkers follows the bumpf for bikers, below:

To keep a bike in Paris, use a steel lock and iron railings.

It is only three short years since Paris started to become 'bike friendly.' Since Paris' initial effort of opening 50-odd kilometres of bike lanes on city streets, the city has been busy - bringing them up to 100 kms last year and continuing the program this year.

The bike lanes are clearly marked, and in many if not most places they are set off from the traffic lanes by painted lines - which does not prevent chronic swifty-parkers from jamming them up, but the police are watching out for this. If, for technical reasons, a bike-lane has to give up its right-of-way, cyclists are warned by signs.

Pedestrians have become slightly more bike-lane-aware, but may still overlook the fact of their existence and step into them at any time.

The bike-lanes are, grosso-modo, in place on an east-west axis and a north-south axis, and run from the city boundaries through the centre. There are also lanes reserved for cyclists in the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes.

What the SNCF Did In 1997 It May Do In 1998

Although the SNCF took part in last Sunday's bicycle action, the 'Paris Visite' brochure says it does not start its 'Vélo Eté 98' program until Saturday, 16. May. If you get here before then, call Info. Tel.: 01 53 90 20 20 for more exact details.

Last year, Ile-de-France section of the SNCF, acting in concert with the city of Paris, put out a brochure outlining 20 bike-rental locations at its stations in and around Paris.

At the stations, the bikes on offer were either the VTT or VTC types - all-terrain or all-comfort. The rates - last year - varied from 50 to 75 francs for a half-day, with 80 or 90 francs for a whole day. The bikes belonged to regular bike-rental firms, so you didn't have to worry about them being kept in condition by locomotive engineers. Also at the stations, the SNCF had maps available for the locality, and these were prepared by the IGN - the map people.

You should also note that taking a bike on a train is/was free. if, for example, you rented one in Paris and wanted to ride around Fountainbleau. There were some rush-hour and other restrictionsbike, Champs-Elysees for taking bikes on RER trains, but otherwise it looked handy. For long-distance trains, you were supposed to look for the 'bike' symbol in the timetables.

If you want this bike on the Champs-Elysées, you'll need to take the tree too.

The SNCF also had about 30 stations around France which rented bikes. Their daily rates last year were either 44 or 55 francs, with discounts for multiple-day rentals, starting from the third day. For these, a security-deposit of 1000 francs was required plus an identity paper. For the rental itself, you paid when you returned the bike, and the SNCF accepted Visa, Master and Access cards.

Finally, you could reserve rental bikes. If you are in Paris, get the new SNCF brochure for 1998. It will contain all the phone numbers of the SNCF's bike-rental partners for the Ile-de-France.

Why Ride When You Can Walk?

For some people bicycles are too zippy and others find bikes just a bit too mechanical, not to mention theft-prone - by lazy walkers. That Paris 'was made for walking' is known to even the unromantic, and it is pretty easy to do.

All the same, serious walking is getting itself organized and anything that gets to this stage, needs guide books - 'how-to-do-it' books. 'First, you put one foot in front of the other, then you bring the behind foot forward; repeat the process - and watch where you are going!'

The first guide is 'Paris à Pied' for 99 francs, which is an entire program, with the sub-divisions of 'nature,' 'character' and 'discovery.'

'Les Environs de Paris à Pied,' 'A la Découverte des Plus Belles Routes' and 'La Ceinture Verte d'Ile-de-France.' Details for this last one can be found at the Ile-de-France office in the Carrouselbike lane, boul'Mich du Louvre. These are also the names of guide books, costing from 69 to 99 francs. For the Ile-de-France, the paths total more than 5,000 kms.

Some bike lanes are like having your very own railroad.

To aid serious strollers with selecting all the equipment they will need besides feet, there will be a Salon des Randonneurs, from Friday, 3. April until Sunday, at Paris-Expo. This is the 14th edition of this salon, and organizers expect 45,000 to walk in.

A fourth 'promenade' is called 'indiscreet,' but this is two exhibitions. 'Paris aux Mille Villages' can be found at the Mairie of the 19th, at the place Armand-Carrel. Info. Tel.: 01 44 52 29 19.

'Paris Côté Cours' is at the Pavillon de l'Arsenal, which is at 21. boulevard Morland, Paris 4. Until Sunday, 3. May. Info. Tel.: 01 42 76 33 97.

Further Information

The walking, bicycling, last year was popular, and it will probably be more so this year. I will try to keep an update-file on this subject and as new information becomes available, it will be added to Metropole.

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