The appearance of the much talked about Velib system, put into place last June, has made the streets of Paris resemble those of Amsterdam or even a far corner of the countryside, with everyone from tourists to ‘les Parisiens’ themselves desperate to test out this latest craze.
A velib station can be found every 150 m in Paris, each with a machine at the center, where with a simple credit card transaction you can sign up for either a one day (€1) or a 7 day (€5) pass. Once joined you can click in and out as much as you like by punching in the number on your ticket until it runs out!
Velibers are everywhere, and although they may share an affection for these strange looking beige bicycles, look out for the different ‘types’ lurking around the stations…
- The Navighosts-the proud owners of the much sought after Navigo Pass, allowing them to just wave their pass in front of the light by the bike, and off they go.
- The savvy locals who have keenly embraced this new way of getting to work and know the sequence of buttons by heart.
- The tourists-of course anyone visiting Paris is bound to give them a go. Usually to be found in front of the machine, confused as to why their foreign card won’t work, while the ‘savvy locals’ behind them wish they had a navigo too.
The navighost however are the ones to watch out for. You’re in the queue, no doubt stuck behind the above mentioned ‘tourists’ but nevertheless quietly content as you have worked out that number of people in the queue corresponds perfectly to the number of bikes available (the ones with illuminated green lights) and therefore its only a matter of time before you get going. When suddenly, the Navighost, as if from nowhere (hence the name) swoops in, smugly swipes his pass, releases the bike and before you know it he’s off, pedaling into the distance before you’ve even had a chance to ‘choose language’ on the screen in front of you.
They have no shame, and even during the recent transport strikes, when demand was at its highest and everyone was desperate to find any way of getting home, they had no problem swiping that last bike from under your nose.
If you’re planning to be in Paris for a while I suggest you join the Navighosts and avoid such frustrations. If not, be patient, for thankfully the bikes seem to come and go pretty frequently, so there is usually another one about to appear around the corner.
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