Roll Around Paris

photo: roller learners

'Students' of the Roller Passion shop, about to crash-
land on my sidewalk.

All Day - And Night

Paris:- Friday, 25. May 2001:- The idea of riding around Paris on a bicycle may seem like a daunting adventure, but thousands of Parisians do it for daily commuting or shopping, and for pleasure on weekends and holidays.

To protect cyclists, secure bike lanes have been set aside on many streets, and many other streets have less secure but defined lanes - possibly totalling 150 kilometres or more. The new city administration is committed to expanding this network.

On Sundays certain areas of the city are closed to motorized traffic, and these areas are greatly expanded for periods during the summer. For this year the Hôtel de Ville is contemplating extending the time period from 15. July to 15. August and radically increasing the areas to be closed to cars and trucks.

This does not mean that Paris will become the bike racing capital of the world because the same areas are set aside for pedestrians, strollers, wheelchair drivers and the roller folks.

On streets where there are no set-aside bike lanes, road rules apply. This means that most drivers will recognize that cyclists are fragile, but will also appreciate seeing cyclists giving some signals of their intentions.

In principle, it is illegal to operate bikes on sidewalks. It is just as illegal to run scooters, motorcyclesphoto: maison roue libre and cars on sidewalks, but you will certainly see this done. Hitting pedestrians on sidewalks is not tolerated. If a cyclist has a collision with a car on a sidewalk, this will result in a grey legal situation, so it should be avoided.

The Maison 'Roue Libre' is fairly easy to find at Les Halles.

Roller folks are neither pedestrians nor motorized traffic, so they have no legal right to roll on streets or sidewalks. Lawyers are studying this situation, but no general rules have been established yet.

Informal rule number one - hitting pedestrians on sidewalks is stupid. Informal rule number two - getting hit by cars, buses, scooters or motorcycles on streets, could be bad for your health.

Bike lanes on streets are clearly marked with bicycle signs on the pavement and are often also shown with direction arrows. These 'signs' can be bumpy to roller over - they are designed not to wear out.

Paris traffic can be aggressive, but generally within the city there is a great deal of live-and-let-live tolerance. There is too much traffic at times, and without a certain amount of give-and take nobody would get anywhere.

Out-of-town drivers may not be used to Paris' 'tolerance' and may insist of the rule book's legal 'right-of-way,' so don't assume you are going to get a 'free one' every time.

Roue Libre

There are more than a couple of establishments renting bikes in Paris. For a reason unknown to me, few neighborhood shops renting bikes advertise or are listed in the 'Pages Jaunes' - the Yellow Pages They do exist, and their rates are probably similar to Roue Libre's.

Roue Libre does more than rent bikes though. It also has guided tours, both for Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France. Its 'Maison' also offers a bike-parking service, and it can perform minor maintenance and repairs. Finally, Roue Libre can even give you lessons about bike survival in Paris.

Through Roue Libre there is also an access to rollers, through its partnership with l'Ecole Française de Roller and two Roller Station shops. These two definitely give lessons - as do most roller outlets.

Rental rates vary between weekdays and weekends. A whole weekday costs 30 francs, and Monday to Friday is 110 francs. One hour on weekends is 20 francs, one day is 75 francs and all weekend is 115 francs. The guided tours begin at 55 francs for kids and 85 francs for adults.

To rent a bike you will need to show a suitable ID - either a passport of a drivers' license. The security depositphoto: buses, bike, rue rivoli required of 1000 francs can be made either with a cheque or a credit card. Insurance is included in the rental fee.

There are also individual and group courses for learning how to become roller folks. In groups, the rates start at 75 francs for an hour's lessons. A guided tour of three hours costs 135 francs.

On the Rue de Rivoli, in normal traffic - everybody shares the same space.

Maison Roue Libre, 95-bis, Rue Rambuteau, Paris 1. Open all week, all year; from 9:00 to 19:00. InfoTel.: 01 53 46 43 77. Métro: Châtelet, Les Halles or Etienne Marcel. From Les Halles métro or RER, signs pointing the way to Roue Libre are liberally plastered all over. Write to Roue Libre.

Roue Libre's Web site does not seem to have a version in English, but this could be because of the way I came to it. Trying the version in English from the RATP's home page may get it for you.

The 'Cyclobus'

This is Roue Libre's mobile arm, in the form of several ex-RATP buses that have been converted into bike transporters. When parked at the following locations on weekends and public holidays, they become bike rental units, with each unit having 60 bikes available.

Châtelet, Hôtel de Ville - at 4. Avenue Victoria. Métro: Châtelet.
Bois de Vincennes - at the Parc Floral. Métro: Château de Vincennes.
Canal d'Ourcq, or 'Stalingrad' - at 23. Quai de la Loire. Métro: Stalingrad or Jaurès.
13th Arrondissement - at 155. Boulevard Vincent Auriol. Métro: Nationale.
Bois de Boulogne - at the Gare Routière RATP. Métro: Porte d'Auteuil.

Guided Tours à l'Est

Another company associated with Roue Libre offers tours of Paris' developing east side. The first set of five tours, on foot, is called 'Promenades Urbaines.'

These begin at the Grand Bibliothèque and follow the Seine to the Jardin des Plantes. Other tours take in the area of Bercy, the old industrial quarters of the 13th arrondissement and the lanes near the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital - to show the metamorphosis currently underway in eastern Paris.

Working together with Roue Libre's bike rental, another tour is called 'Le Fleuve-Mémoire.' Meet at 10:00 at Roue Libre's location on Saturdays - on 30. June, 28. July and 25 August. The company's name is Ultramarine and it also has an InfoTel.: 01 53 46 43 77..

Mike's Bullfrog Bike Tours

This is another outfit that works together with Roue Libre. Mike's tours started in Munich, and are also in Amsterdam and Barcelona. The meeting place in Paris is at the south leg - 'Pilier Sud' - of the Tour Eiffel.

There are two tours daily, at 11:00 and 15:30; plus there are night tours starting at 19:30, from Sundays to Thursdays. There will be no tours on Saturday, 14 July and on Sunday, 29. July.

Day tours cost 130 francs and the night tours are 160 francs. If you bring your own bike - or one of Roue Libre's - the cost is 30 francs less. Reservations are only required for the night tours. For more information, check out Mike's Bullfrog Bike Tours on the Web.

The SNCF's Train & Vélo

In past years, the SNCF has offered bike rentals at selected stations throughout its Ile-de-France suburban network surrounding Paris. The SNCF was not able to provide any information about this year's operation today - but I assume the service will continue.

In general, bikes can be taken on the SNCF's suburban trains. You just have to take care that they are placed so they don't obstruct other passengers.

Many SNCF long-distance trains also have facilities for transporting bikes. Look at the timetable lists for the 'bike' pictogram, which will indicate that the train has a baggage wagon. There are also spaces set aside for bikes on TGV trains - but these may require placing the bike in a transport sack, which are not supplied by the SNCF.

There is no charge for bikes carried on SNCF trains. They go free, or are considered to be hand-baggage.

Roller Passion

This shop, located in my street for the last 18 months, is thought to be representative of most shops selling andphoto: logo roue libre renting rollers to the public. Roller Passion also offers lessons on weekends and holidays to would-be roller folk.

The safety gear is free and three lessons cost 220 francs. Insurance, costing 22 francs per year, is necessary. Roller rental for the lessons is 30 francs.

Roue Libre's bikes are the comfortable, city-bike sort, with bells of course.

Rental rates during the week are 50 francs for all day, 60 francs on Saturday or Sunday, or 100 francs for a weekend. A complete week costs 200 francs. The kit of safety gear costs 10 francs to rent. The deposit is 1500 francs, which can be covered with a credit card, and an ID of some sort is necessary.

Roller Passion's Web site is not fully functional, but it is online. They are open all week from 10:00 to 19:00. At 6. Rue Ernest Cresson, Paris 14. Métro: Denfert-Rochereau. InfoTel.: 01 45 41 07 26.

The Friday Night Roller Rando

This kicks off every Friday night at 22:00 from the Place de l'Italie in the 13th arrondissement. The 'Rando' is free and non-profit roller orgs supply leadership, medical help is on hand and Paris' fine police force clears the way.

A 'Rando' generally takes over three hours to complete and routes are changed each week. This is not a trip for apprentices because of the large number of roller folks taking part in it. There is, I believe, a somewhat less exhausting 'rando' on Sundays during the day.

The Last Word

Fête du Vélo - not be outdone by upstart roller folks, bike fans get their own two days in Paris next Saturday and Sunday, 2. and 3. June. Meeting place is in front of Paris' main city hall. Paris 4. Métro: Hôtel de Ville. Toll InfoTel.: 08 36 68 93 13, so cheaper via the Web - Fête du Vélo.

Note:- Roue Libre will be making some of its bikes available for this 'fête,' so they will not be available in their usual 'Cyclobus' locations.

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