The time has come to express my ardent admiration.
All this love has been boiling up inside me for quite some time, and it’s time you knew…
You’ve changed my life.
You’ve fostered another level of love for Paris that I never even thought possible. (Because, after all, Paris and I were already the best of friends.)
You’ve transformed my Paris from Le Dernier Metro into an Amélie wonderland.
Now, instead of shuffling like a herded sheep among a sweaty flock, smelling the repugnant funk of the metro… I smell the yeasty perfume of baguettes wafting through the air as I zip past the boulangerie on my bicycle. I feel connected to my surroundings, to my city. To the hustle and bustle, without the struggle.
Sure, there’s the car exhaust, but I focus on the flowers, I focus on the trees. I see the faces of passersby and happy white poodles. For me, it’s whimsy on wheels…. the breeze in my hair, waltzing through traffic jams… singing songs (like this one) as I pedal around this city of light.
Fancy free. Smooth sailing.
Plus, when you’re constantly sub-terraining it, you just pop in somewhere and pop out somewhere else like magic, with no comprehension of how you got there, or which neighborhoods you went through. However, on bike, you see the sights of Paris. Now I understand how neighborhoods connect. GPS? Shoot, I can tell you how to get almost anywhere. And also thanks to vélib-ing, I’ve discovered so many gems — little shops, cafes, and adorable hole-in-the-walls that I had never seen before because they weren’t by a metro stop!
Chloe actually got me into Vélib. I, like many, was scared of bike riding in Paris when I first got here. But, Chloe would always come to my house from far off places, toting things in her bike basket, and wearing gorgeous shoes — which in the metro is très difficult — but biking gets you places whilst pedaling instead of walking. Hence less foot pain. It’s brilliant.
Mmm… what’s that in your vélib basket, Chloe?
You convinced yet?
Reasons to start biking (at least in bike-friendly cities):
- Exercise! Pump those pedals! Suddenly all that chocolate you ate is not longer plaguing you. It’s propelling you up the hills. Yeah! (We are so into functional exercise here in Paris.)
- You’re actually seeing the city! You’re not underground in dank and dark corridors and passages.
- With Vélib you can pick up and put down. So you could, say, go somewhere on a bike, but then if it starts raining, you could jump on a bus or in an Uber on the way home. (However, if you have your own bike — and, there are advantages — the downside is that you can’t just leave it somewhere.)
- It’s usually twice as fast as the metro, because you’re taking direct paths — almost as the crow flies. With the metro, you have transfers and do a lot of going out of your way to get to where you want to go.
- No traffic jams (as is the case with cars, Uber, etc.)
- Transportation strikes? C’est quoi? You’re on a bike. HA! Take that you transpo-strikers!
- Out on the town late and miss the last metro? You can count on your friend Vélib at all hours of the night.
- The Vélib application is fantastic, and constantly updated in order to help you find bikes and parking spots.
Excuses people make to NOT bike:
- “There’s so much pollution!” Sure. I get it. But you have to weigh alllll the pros against this con. Again, I don’t think that all the funk of the metro is any better for your lungs, and in this scenario, you’re not getting all the bliss of the bike ride.
- “It’s dangerous!” It does take some practice to understand the system… and, perhaps more importantly, to understand where you stand among the transportation hierarchy. There’s a wheeled eco-system. As in, you’re NOT a pedestrian, so get off the sidewalk (otherwise you’re going to make all those looky-loo tourists surly), and at the same time, you’re not a car. In a battle between you on a bike and a Renault Kadjar, you lose. So there’s a middle ground to find. It is possible to live in harmony, if you practice consideration for your footed and four-wheeled cohorts. Dare I say it’s a concept of carma. Heee. Plus, since Paris is such a bike-friendly city, there are bike lanes everywhere. Bottom line: It’s only dangerous if you make sudden, erratic movements, or you come across a crazy driver or door opener…. something that can happen whether you’re metro-ing, driving, walking or anything. Crazies are everywhere so it’s best not to live in fear.
- “Ouais mais…. ze pollution!” See #1. And if you’re still in such a tizzy about it, it’s time to move to Reykjavik. (I have a couple friends there… let me know, I’ll hook you up.)
So now you know about my massive crush on Vélib. But the beauty of it is that it’s an open relationship. Meaning you can get in on the fun as well. And it’s better if you do. Keep those bikes circulating from all the parts of the city — opening up new spots here and there for all of us.
So, in conclusion… Vélib, I love you.
If you haven’t yet jumped on the biking train, what’s holding you back?
P.S. Don’t have a “pick up put down” biking system in your city? Start campaigning for one. Write your congressman. Be a “squeaky wheel” to your local authorities… 😉