Vélib’ are Paris’ 24/7 self-service bicycles. Bike stations (bike terminals and bike stands) are located every 300 meters.
“Whatever formula you choose, the first 30 minutes of every journey are always free of charge.”
The idea is to be able to bike for free in Paris whenever you feel like it while still making sure that everybody gets a chance to bike too. In order for that to be possible the amount of time one can borrow a bike is limited to 30 minutes. At which point you drop your bike off at the nearest Vélib station and exchange it for another one and another half hour. You can do this an unlimited amount of times in a day and as long as you keep it under half an hour there won’t be any additional charges. If you keep the bike beyond this amount of time you’ll be charged incrementally by the hour.
VERY IMPORTANT TIP: Each time you return your bicycle to a Vélib’ bike stand make sure you wait until your bike is safely locked in and the light has switched back to green. It usually takes a few seconds, long enough for you to move on and for someone else to come pick your bicycle up and use it on YOUR time.
HOW IT WORKS:
-Short term subscriber:
You need a bank card and a minimum of 150$ on your account. You can not subscribe online eventhough the Vélib’ website lets you believe otherwise!
The 1-day (1€) or 7-day (5€) Vélib’ passes are available for purchase at any of the Vélib’ terminals and they give you unlimited number of journeys for the duration of the subscription period (remember: if you don’t switch bikes at the end of the first half hour the cost of journeys after this amount of time will be charged to your bank account, together with your short-term subscription fee.)
A security deposit is required for all short-term subscriptions. A 150€ bank card direct pre-authorization is necessary for this type of subscription.
Total deposit amount will be forfeited if bike is not returned within 24 hours.
Use your bank card directly at the Vélib’ terminal for a short term pass (1-day or 7-day):
- Identify yourself on the terminal
- Access the menu
- Choose your bike from the selection
If the Vélib’ terminal does not accept your bank card, no matter how much money you might have in your bank account, you can move on. I AM SORRY TO ANNOUNCE THAT VELIB’ DOES NOT OFFER ANY SOLUTION TO THOSE UNLUCKY TOURISTS WHOSE BANK CARDS AREN’T ACCEPTED.
When asked whether they offered a solution to that, their answer was an apologetic no.
You can also use a Navigo pass, which can only be charged at the Vélib’ terminal with your bank card. Once your Navigo pass has been charged you can use it directly at the bike stands bypassing the terminals. Look for the stands with a green light, check on the bicycle, swipe your card over the reader on the bike stand itself and wait for your bike to unlock. You are set to go.
-Long-Term Subscriber :
Vélib’ offers a one 1 year subscription for 29€. Fill the online pre-subscription form (it is in French) and send it with all the required documents. Once the application has been approved it takes about two weeks for the Velib’ card to be sent to you or added to your Navigo pass.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO RETURN YOUR BICYCLE AND ALL OF THE BIKE STANDS ARE FULL:
Your are at the end of your 30 minute free ride and there are no free bike stands left for you to return your bicycle. All you have to do is go to the Vélib’ terminal, identify yourself (every pass comes with a pin code that you choose) on the touch screen and you will be given an additional 15 minutes and information on the closest Vélib’ station with available bike stands.
What if you want to ride your bicycle for more than 30 minutes?
It is not a problem to ride your bike for as long as you want within the 24-hour allocation time, as long as you pay for it. You simply need to credit your Velib’ account which can be done directly at the Velib’ terminal.
And as a New York Times’ journalist puts it:
“Hopping on and off the Vélib’s so often courted a certain amount of trouble. Parisian cynicism reared its head when a disgusted man at a station told me that 90 percent of the bikes don’t work. I wouldn’t say the defective bicycles were that frequent, but I learned an essential checklist: Are the tires inflated? The rims, straight? Is the front basket intact? Do the gears work? Is the chain attached? With these things checked, you’re good to go.”