By Anne McCarthy
There are few things better than riding a bicycle around Paris. (In fact, it was the inspiration for the founding of Fat Tire Tours nearly 20 years ago!) So today, we’re offering some top tips for cycling around Paris. Also, it can’t go unnoted that the largest and most iconic cycling event in the entire world, the Tour de France, happens each summer in Paris!
Paris by bike is an epic, adventure-filled experience, and it’s why we at Fat Tire Tours love to show visitors and locals around the City of Light via bike (along with walking tours, museum tours, private tours, Segway tours, and more. Click here to learn about all our Paris tours).
If you’re coming to Paris soon (perhaps you’re planning to visit Paris for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics next year?), book a tour with Fat Tire Tours Paris for an unforgettable adventure. A few of my personal favorites include the bestselling Paris Night Bike Tour and the Versailles Bike Tour, where you’ll get the royal treatment while learning about this iconic palace.
Cycling through Paris is not only a great tour experience, it’s also one of the primary modes of transportation for some Parisians and visitors. As of 2021, approximately 15% of transit trips in Paris are conducted by bike on the city’s various streets and cycling paths. (Paris also has an excellent public transportation system comprised of the RER train, the city buses, and the metro; here’s our guide to using public transportation in Paris.)
Guide to Paris Cycling: Fast Facts
Paris has over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of cycling paths. Cyclists are even given special road permissions in some parts of Paris. For instance, on some one-way streets, cyclists have the right to cycle in both directions in 20 mph zones.
Paris has a wonderful public bike-share system available throughout the city called Vélib’ Métropole. (Typically, it’s simply called “Vélib’.”) This is a public bike system through Paris where you can rent a bike for a short-term period, like a few hours or a day, and then return it to one of the many bike docs around the city. You can get tickets or a subscription pass, depending on your needs. Learn more about this fabulous public bike system in Paris on the Vélib’ website.
You can find Paris’s bike routes mapped out in guides like Paris de Poche: Cycliste et Piéton (i.e. Pocket Paris: Cyclist and Pedestrian). This handy book costs a mere €5 but it’s worth its weight in gold if you’re a cyclist and wish to explore Paris on your own by bike.
There are international bike routes that pass through Paris. One is the Avenue Verte route, which runs between London and Paris. (Heading to London? Be sure to pay Fat Tire Tours London a visit.)
Paris Cycling & Politics
Paris has invested millions of euros into making great bike paths throughout the city. No wonder you’ll see so many Parisians zipping around by bike!
According to statistics cited by Wikipedia, the Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo is a champion of Paris cyclists. The article states: “In October 2021, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the second act of Le Plan vélo de Paris, which has a budget of 250 million euros and aims to add another 180 km of bike lanes to the city.”
Mayor Hidalgo has her mind on the environment with this plan. “Her goal is to make Paris “100% cyclable”. The 180 km of new lanes includes the 50 km (31 mi) of temporary bike lanes that were constructed in Spring 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic that will now be made permanent. The plan also includes the addition of 130,000 new bicycle parking spots.”
Paris is quickly becoming known as one of the most bike-friendly and bike-supporting cities in all of Europe. Cities like Amsterdam have long had this reputation, and Paris continues to join – and stay – in its bike-celebrating ranks.
But it’s not just local to Paris. In 2023, France’s national government declared it would spend 2 billion euros to boost bicycle usage and support a new bicycle infrastructure. The works are set to take place between 2023-2027 and will be carried out throughout the country.
Paris Cycling Safety Tips & Other Paris Cycling Tips
Sunday mornings are an excellent day of the week to cycle around the City of Light because of the more relaxed pace of cars and there being fewer people on the road.
Whether you’re cycling on Sunday morning or Friday at midnight, keep safety in mind. Always signal before turning, use your bike’s bell, and look out for cars and people opening car doors.
It’s a good idea – especially for less experienced cyclists – to wear a helmet and fluorescent vest while biking in Paris. Both a vest and helmet add extra levels of visibility and safety while you’re enjoying your ride around the city.
Always follow the rules of the road! This is both a safety tip and one to keep you compliant with traffic laws. Always stop at red lights and stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. You’re not allowed to ride on the sidewalks (though you can get away with it when the sidewalks are really wide and don’t have too many people on them). You can be fined if you cycle on sidewalks, so if you choose to do it, be aware of your risk.
It’s recommended that you do not use earbuds or headphones while cycling because you need your full listening capabilities while cycling in a city.
When locking up your bike, use a heavy-duty lock. One experienced cyclist recommended making the bike look less appealing to thieves by putting a plastic grocery bag over the seat. You can also opt for using two locks as an extra layer of precaution.
At Fat Tire Tours, we love talking shop about bikes. Book a tour with us for your next trip, and we can share even more tidbits about cycling through the magical city they call “Paree.”
Anne McCarthy is the Editor in Chief of the Fat Tire Tours Blog. She is a contributing writer to the BBC, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Wired, and many more. She splits her time between the U.S. and Europe.